Simone Emery is mother of 2, wife and owner of Play with Food in Sydney, Australia. Simone has a masters degree in food studies, certificate in childrens nutrition and attended SOS Feeding Therapy training. Play with Food run healthy eating experiences for children. Play with Food offer set programs and can also tailor workshops or programs to groups.1)You run 'fruit and vegetable classes' for children - can you tell me a bit about what this entails?
I run fun group classes for children that use fruits and vegetables. I run the classes for 3 age brackets; 18mth - 3yrs, 3yrs-5yrs and 5yrs-7yrs. Each age bracket has their own developmental considerations causing different eating behaviours. We sing, play, explore and laugh our way through weekly 45 minute classes. The children are encouraged to play with the food to a level they are comfortable with. For example, while we are playing with carrot some kids may be happy to roll it on their fingers and others may kiss it and others will eat it. Parents learn routines, nutritional information and food preparation ideas that they can take home with them.
2) How did you become interested in helping children eat well?
I spent my pre-baby days working in the food manufacturing environment. I held roles in food technology, quality assurance, health and safety. I wanted a career change that maximised my food knowledge, love of cooking and my passion for learning and development. I had a keen interest in children's feeding from a mother's perspective. I studied children's nutrition whilst on maternity leave & started looking for my career change opportunity. I fall more in love with helping children develop healthy eating skills each day. It is so rewarding.
3) What's your take on picky eating?
I feel that it's important for every parent to walk in their child's shoes and recognise their individuality. I think there is a level of picky eating that will arise during fussy times for all children. There are also sensory, oral motor, dietary sensitivity and pain associations during feeding for some children. These feeding issues can be mistaken as picky eating. I use the term "picky eater" (or fussy eater in Australia) for parents as it is a commonplace term they can relate too, however, using labels can be detrimental to the child and will also form a barrier for parents too.
4) If you were asked to give a new parent one piece of advice about how to help children form a positive relationship with food, what would that be?
Firstly, literally put yourself in the position of the child (ie. in their chair) and work out how to set them up for success. Learning to eat is a long process! As parents, we are the child's primary educator, supporter and role model.
5) Your recipes are creative and use a wide range of ingredients - do you believe that children can largely eat the same food as adults?
Yes, I am a big believer in the family meal. It also helps you think about what you put in your own mouth! If everyone in the family eats the same nutritious meals you save yourself time and stress. Remembering that each child is an individual, you may still have to make some allowances, however, if you serve the meals in the middle of the table each child can still have some control and individuality.
6) I'm going to ask you the question I get asked ALL the time: you have kids of your own - do they enjoy their food?
Yes, I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old. My 2 year old has her fussy moments, but overall is a great eater. Her fussy periods coincide with illness and being overtired. She responds well to imaginative discussions and giving her some control over what she chooses to eat. When she is fussy she will try to start a mealtime battle. However, with patience and a deep breath, we can usually "reset" her by all participating in a simple game. We all get the same type of food on our fork and on the count of 3 take a bite. (I admit this works great for toddlers as they love inclusion.)
7) Do you have any interesting projects or plans in the pipeline?
I've had a few months off of classes while we welcomed our baby girl to the family. I have a toddler program starting in June. Other ages and geographic locations will start in July. I am also working on my blog and hope to transfer some content into eBooks in the near future.