One morning at mange-tout a new parent came to attend a trial class with her two year old daughter. They had arrived early, just as I was pouring the sugar snap peas into a large bowl ready for circle time…
The mother’s face grimaced as she spotted the green pods and exclaimed “You’ll never get her to eat those, she hates peas and anything green!”
I greeted Saskia with a huge smile and invited her to come and help me with the green pods. We sat on a brightly coloured mat in the centre of the room and began feeling and counting the pods and trying to guess what was inside them.
“I expect there is treasure inside” I whispered to Saskia, “Shall we have a look and see?”
On building the excitement and anticipation of the treasure to be found inside we hurriedly popped the pods open and Saskia squealed with delight at the tiny green balls inside. I counted the peas and instantly popped one into my mouth and exclaimed how sweet and crunchy it was, I then continued with what I was doing. Almost immediately, out the corner of my eye I caught Saskia popping the peas into her mouth faster than you can say “Mange-tout!” Saskia was so caught up in the drama and excitement that she’d obviously thrown all pea green grudges out the window and was eagerly popping the next pod whilst Mum stood flabbergasted in the corner of the room. Later that morning Saskia also put the entire Pod into her mouth and began crunching it following the, “Sugar snaps are good for me,” song.
What is important to remember here is that Saskia was not asked to EAT the peas; however she responded positively in relaxed company and without any pressure or anxiety to inhibit her.
Not all children respond in the same way to any given situation, therefore it may take a little more time using the introduction techniques and building your child’s confidence with positive praise for every small step taken.
Above all – We must not punish ourselves or feel guilty for the way in which we have handled or dealt with episodes in the past. Instead we must look forward and open our eyes to some different concepts and an exciting new adventure with food.
What is it about peas that makes children find them so undesirable?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I find the little green balls rather cute, they taste so sweet and are immensely satisfying with mashed potato!
It seems that quite a few children need a little more gentle persuasion in the form of fun before the peas reach their lips!
First though, let’s consider peas from a child’s point of view.
A pile of peas rolling around on the plate can seem extremely daunting. When babies make the transition to solid pureed food, it often gets spat out in response to the strange texture, especially when lumpier foods are gradually introduced. Young children find it quite tricky to deal with multiple textures in their mouth at one time. How many times has your child refused yoghurt with bits in, bread with seeds or pasta sauce with chunks in?
Do you ever notice how your child prefers to eat their food separately? Or perhaps you make a forkful of potato for them and bury a pea inside, they then begin to swirl the food around inside their mouth until eventually the pea gets pulled out? The same process can occur at the thought of putting a whole spoonful (5-8 peas) into their mouth and being unable to chew or deal with them all at once.
I looked after a little boy who would happily eat peas but only one at a time.
Many children will gag quite easily on cooked peas, however do not be alarmed and moreover do not take this to be a sign of their dislike!
A cooked pea separates very easily from its skin once it is in the mouth, the soft sweet pea inside is swallowed quite easily. However, the slightly tougher skin (especially if over cooked) may not be so palatable and can easily get stuck in the wrong place and can be tricky to swallow. A small retching or gagging incident can occur and a child can associate this all too soon with being sick. The natural response is to then dislike the peas!
Ways to approach peas and avoid negative experiences
Remember that Pod is a pea too – encourage and remind your child that Pod would be very proud of them for growing, shelling, smelling, kissing or crunching peas!
A rhyme to teach your child –
(Use your hand closed in a fist and let your fingers pop out as the peas grow)
Five green peas in a pea pod pressed,
One grew, two grew and so did all the rest!
They grew and they grew and they just couldn’t STOP!
Until one day the pod went POP!
Buy some peas that are still in their pods and have fun popping them out. If you cannot find podding peas then sugar snap peas work well too. If your child enjoys eating them this way – try lightly steaming sugar snaps and letting them cool before opening them.
Count how many peas are in the pod?
Before you pop them open try and guess how many will be inside?
Remember my story about Saskia and how she got so involved with the activity that she immediately copied me by popping a raw pea into her mouth! You can do the same but do not ask or force your child to copy you, just exclaim how sweet and crunchy they are and encourage them to choose a baby pea or the biggest one.
Feel how smooth the pea is by licking it with your tongue.
Does it get any smaller if we suck it? Will it disappear?
Put some hard frozen peas into a container with a lid on and sing whilst shaking the container-
Frozen peas, frozen peas,
Jumping in my pot!
Lots of crunchy green balls
I could nearly eat the lot!
Open up the container and share the crunchy frozen peas. Do they melt in your hand, do they change colour when licked? Do they make a crunching sound? Frozen Peas make a great tasty nutritional snack and because they are frozen, they have a consistent texture.
With cooked peas show your child that by gently squeezing a pea, it will pop itself out of its skin. Inside there are two small halves. Stick half a pea on your tongue so it looks like you have a green spot on your tongue. Can you make it disappear?
If your child is happy to explore and not eat – do not worry. It is great that they are getting involved with the activity and not shunning our little green friends!
Remember – A Chef’s Love of food comes from a hands on experience, exploring and getting to grips with food itself.
Have a go at sprouting some dried peas on some damp cotton wool, or grow your own peas.
Introduce sugar snap peas or mange-tout, raw and cooked.
Explain how the pod is edible too.
Brush your teeth with the pod and then see who can do the loudest crunch or see their teeth marks in a raw mange-tout or sugar snap pod!
Demonstrate the magic of mashed potato and how one little pea can stay on the fork even when it is turned upside down!