INVENTOR: Chrissie Probert Jones
DOES: can be the start of some new eating habits; an excellent executive functioning activity, cook with the kids and watch them be more adventurous with eating!
INVEST: $21.86 for child size; $25.86 for adult size. A set of markers come in every package- what a great deal!
AGES: 2+? Whenever you want to give them non-toxic washable markers?
TOOLS: Express Yourself, I Can Take Care of Myself, Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner, Family Fix-it
EXPERT OPINION: Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Integrative Nutritionist, Susan L. Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L
My son is a horrible eater which really drives me nuts. Moreover, my family’s business was in the food industry and so all of us love food. Thus, when I watch him eat the few things that he does eat and with such little gusto, I am completely heartbroken. My younger son is a better eater but his variety is even smaller. I am starting to think that neither of them will ever like my favorite foods.
But luckily, I am a tester of toys that aim to help solve all different kinds of problems and I have found the doodle apron to be just about one of the best solutions for some of children’s toughest problems: EATING.
Inclusion Can Make a Huge Difference
I talked to Susan Roberts, expert OT and kick-ass nutritionist who told me why kids are having a tough time eating right these days. According to Susan, there are many many reasons but one that really sticks out is how kids are just being “fed” these days. “It is such a passive process now,” she said. Back then, it wasn’t like that. Kids were in the kitchen, helping, setting the table, clearing the table, and washing the dishes. Dinner was a family affair from prepping to eating to cleaning up. Susan advised me that if I really want to get my kids to eat better, I should try including them more in the whole process. Sigh… more work…. but she’s is actually an expert in teaching children to expand their palates, feeding themselves better, and handwriting too (the two skills are related!) and so I thought I’d give it a try.
But My Kid Makes a Total Mess
Remember when our kids were babies and we were told by doctors and books to let them make a mess. While I secretly wanted to say, “THEN YOU CLEAN IT UP,” I think we have to let them make mistakes in the kitchen too. There are so many benefits including getting them to try new foods!!! “We definitely teach cooking to picky eaters,” said Susan. “Each exposure is one step closer to them eating it.”
Susan does have one cardinal rule. “Never make them eat it. Never.” To Susan, it is still exposure if they are cooking it, serving it, leaving it on the plate untouched, and even throwing it out. However, Susan felt that promising children that she’d never force them to eat something can be surprisingly effective (This “forcing” includes positive reinforcement for trying new foods- don’t do that either).
It’s been a couple of months since I started with her hints and the doodle apron and I have to tell you, it totally works! I have gotten my kids to don on the doodle aprons and they have become more enthusiastic eaters. Heck my nine-year old is even doing the dishes now! I almost fainted at the sight of that and I don’t even have to supervise. The dishes actually come out so much cleaner when I don’t supervise. Sure he wastes a ton of dish soap but I DON’T CARE!!! My son is washing the dishes, damn it! It’s a miracle!
I Love a Man in Uniform!
When I was younger, my friends and I had a ritual before we went dancing. We would wear our coolest outfits and cake on the makeup while listening to music and dreaming about our evening. Even though it is not a uniform, clearly there is a specific dress code and when we are all adhering to the dress code, we enter into a group.
Aprons are no different. Whether it’s a kid or a grown-up, putting on an apron is a ritual that tells the mind that they are about to begin something and they will take it off when they are finished. If two people are wearing aprons then it implies that they are in a group. This is why I wanted to have both the kid and the grown-up apron in the kitchen. You think they’re just aprons for fun but oh no… it’s way more.
Executive Functioning and Writing
I like cooking but I hate reading recipes. The words are too small and the cookbooks do not stay open. Also, have you ever asked a child to read the recipe on the back of the box? Look at the size of the font! If you gave them a book like that, you should also give them a magnifying glass. Besides, every recipe is different. Some give you tons of directions ie. “cut and set aside” and some are written with the expectation that you know how to cook, “julienne slices.”
This is another reason why I LOVE this apron! You can write the recipe on the apron of your cooking partner. Have the child write it out too! And remember to have them write it out on the partner’s apron (yours or friend’s). It is a great exercise in taking perspective. It can be a production but one way to have them take turns is by writing alternating steps of the recipe onto the child’s aprons.
Writing out the steps also helps a child to make plans and think ahead for possible problems. I know that I talk about this a lot when discussing strategy games but indeed, you can do that in cooking too and you can eat your results. Remember, all recipes are written differently and so it is really important to read things through to make a good plan.
What’s More Important Than Basic Life Skills?
When I talk to my son about his schoolwork, I really don’t talk about college. That is what my parents used to do. All I talk about is getting married and having a job and raising kids. I know he is kind of young for that (he’s nine) but maybe he is not. Being able to cook for yourself (and family) will eventually end up to mean that you can shop for food by yourself, make good food choices, cook food to your satisfaction, and dispose of it properly (those dishes must be washed!).
Homemakers will know that this is not an easy task, especially if you are on a budget. However, it is a good start and those very useful planning skills, I would bet, will travel beyond the kitchen all the way to the classroom and eventually, the workplace.
For more information on doodle products and those amazing knives….
Disclosure: Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturer for the publication of this review. The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools and the expert to facilitate a review. Reviews are never promised. The giveaway prize is being offered by the manufacturer.