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Making Veg Fun!

We asked Natasha Gavin from  I Know Why It’s Yum, Mum! for her tops tips on making veg fun

Natasha Gavin

Natasha Gavin has run I Know Why It’s Yum, Mum! for almost ten years. The theatre-in-education company runs 50 minute Rainbow Workshops for children aged 2-6 years, in any childcare setting or in private homes for groups of mums/ childcarers. It also tours primary schools in England and abroad, with a theatrical production and workshops about fruit and veg. It is a social enterprise that operates on a not-for-profit basis. If you are curious about them see:

Great teachers make learning fun. We all know that from our days at school.

And you want your child to grow into a healthy (vegetable eating and appreciating) adult. But does it seem hard to get them to eat up any, let alone ALL, of their greens? As a mum of two boys, and someone who has worked with thousands of children who are not exactly big veg lovers, my advice is to tap into your inner child, to make a genuine connection with your own child, and just play with veg. It might sound a bit mad, but I believe this will be your turning point. Here are the reasons why playing veg related games (and learning about the importance of eating veg in a fun way), achieves incredible physical and mental health benefits:

  • Playing is the safe way to de-sensitise a child to things that might scare them- big red tomatoes can be scary if you have only ever eaten them in a sauce. Before a child will put veg near their mouth, they have to feel safe handling it, looking at it, using it.
  • Fun activities create opportunities for imparting important information in a relaxed way. What this really means is you can mention facts in passing, admire colours, health benefits, shapes of different veg, which a child will make a note of, and store for later, even if they don’t seem to be paying attention to what you have said.
  • One-to-one play time with a parent who is focused on them (leave the phone in another room) will make your child feel happy, special and loved. It will make you feel good, flooding both your systems with feel good chemicals, which will in turn make veg games seem really positive. Making positive memory associations. Win win.
  • It creates the perfect opportunity for a parent to ‘role model’ what they are saying. Without expecting or asking a child to copy, the parent can demonstrate that a beetroot crisp will turn your tongue pink. (And sometimes, a child will copy. But don’t rush this process. Keep your expectations very low. Take pleasure in very small wins. Rome wasn’t built in a day.)

So how do you PLAY with VEG?

Here are a few games to try – tailor them to your child. Some children love arts and craft (you could paint with veg), others like challenges (memory games!), some need to move and enjoy a sense of adventure (fast paced treasure hunts?)

The only rule is keep it FUN! If it isn’t working, don’t get disheartened. Just try something different on another day. I have not yet met a child who doesn’t love to play – even with veg!


Painting and printing with veg is great fun. Halve your items.  Broccoli florets, potatoes, celery hearts! You can make beautiful roses with celery hearts- perfect for Mother’s day, and for discovering the more ‘unusual’ essential oil in celery – which actually has a calming effect on the nervous system, and is anti depressant. Just cut them off at about 5 cm from the base, dip in red paint et voila! Be sure to enjoy and inhale the smell with your children, before you paint.

Treasure hunts

Children love treasure hunts. I run them at events, and feel like the pied piper, as I weave a group of 30 kids through the stands and crowds, all hunting for a colourful rainbow sticker which is a clue that something wonderful is hidden there! Like a tin of tomatoes (good for your skin) or a bottle of sunflower oil (good for your brain). Rather than a chocolate egg treasure hunt at Easter, how about trying a veg hunt? Kale crisps, almond butter, popcorn..not all has to be edible (tins, plastic fruit and veg, bottles), but it is fun if something is!

Assault courses

These work really well with active children. The floor is the sea, so they have to clamber over/ under/ through things to avoid falling into it, pick up veg as they go along, and accomplish challenges along the way- like picking up a pumpkin seed with their tongue or balancing a sprout leaf on their nose.


This is a top technique for a child who won’t eat an item. Get them to make a real 3D picture of it? Cabbages are great, pumpkins with real pumpkin seeds stuck on the picture, carrots with real tops stuck on top of the picture of a carrot.


I use food to create landscapes. Animal shaped pasta, breadstick enclosures, purple cabbage pond, broccoli and leek trees, rosemary bushes, pea boulders, sweetcorn sand… This stimulates their imagination, and de-sensitises them, and you never know, they might just sneak a bite!

Face plates

You can buy great face plates, but why not use a tortilla wrap to make your own? Cream cheese spread thinly will help everything stick. Then get the children to make a funny face using cucumber eyes, kale hair, pepper smiles… and after a few photos, they can roll them up, and eat them.

#LunchboxHacks: How to add more veg to your child’s lunchbox

We asked award paediatric nutritionist Catherine Lippe for her top tips for at adding vegetables and fun to your child’s lunchbox

Adding veggies to your kid’s lunchbox doesn’t have to be tedious. It’s a great way to help your child reach their 5-a-day. Even if your child isn’t a veggie lover (yet!) try to include a small portion of at least one vegetable in their lunchbox each day. Perseverance pays off and over time your child is much more likely to accept vegetables if they have been repeatedly exposed to them.

Here are 5 top tips aimed at adding vegetables and fun to your child’s lunchbox:

Dipping veggies

If carrot and cucumber sticks day after day don’t entice your child, try adding a tasty dip alongside the crudités for added interest. Hummusguacamole, sour cream or a simple dollop of soft cheese spread will go well with any veggie sticks for dipping. Place the dips in a small, easy to open, sealable pot alongside the veggie sticks. To save on daily prep time for the veggies themselves, chop plenty at the weekend and keep in a sealed jar with some cold water in it to keep them from drying out – this works really well for carrots!

Veggies on pizzas

Pizza can be a great lunchbox filler. Whether you use shop-bought or make your own pizzas using pitta bread or tortilla wraps, why not add some extra veg to help boost your child’s intake? Sliced tomato, sweetcorn, chopped peppers, and even frozen peas all work well and will give the pizza some appetising colour too.

Veggie kebabs

Making vegetables appealing doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Threading chopped vegetable pieces on skewers creates a fun way of exposing your child to vegetables. Raw peppers, cherry tomatoes (halved for the under 5’s), celery, cucumber, raw mushrooms and ready-to-eat beetroot all work well. Have a go at adding some new or unfamiliar veggies alongside ones that your child is already familiar with to increase exposure to new foods. Try our rainbow veggie kebabs, or Jamie Oliver’s Greek veggie kebabs if you want to go a step further and cook some with fun flavours for a new texture and taste.

Fruit and veg salad

Combining veggies with your child’s favourite fruit in a fruit and veg salad combo can be a great way to expose them to more vegetables and add variety to their lunchbox. Cherry tomatoes, frozen peas, pepper slices, carrot sticks, tinned sweetcorn and sugar snap peas are great ideas for your fruit and veg salad. Why not try mixing pineapple & cucumber as in this salad, or add some strawberries to a spinach and avocado salad as in here to make it sweeter and more appealing to little eyes.

Add veggies or salad items to sandwiches

It might seem obvious but adding veg or salad to the good old sandwich or wrap should not be underestimated. Why not try grated carrot, spinach or lettuce leaves, cucumber or beetroot slices, pepper sticks or tinned sweetcorn alongside your usual fillings such as cheese, ham, hummus or tuna? How great do these crunchy carrot pittas sound?