Research: ‘To Get Children to Eat Veggies, Add Science’

Meilee and Shen pose with the first squash blossom from their pumpkin plant.
Meilee and Shen pose with the first squash blossom from their pumpkin plant.

“(A new study shows) that scientists can overcome the child-vegetable repulsive principle. Remarkably, the scientists in question are the children themselves. It turns out that, by giving preschoolers a new theory of nutrition, you can get them to eat more vegetables.”

This quote comes from a Mind & Matter column by Alison Gopnik in the July 13-14 Review section of The Wall Street Journal. Gopnik is the author of the book “The Scientist in the Crib” and has argued that “very young children construct intuitive theories of the world around them…these theories are coherent, causal representations of how things or people or animals work. Just like scientific theories, they let children make sense of the world, construct predictions and design intelligent actions.”

This piece and the Stanford University study to which Gopnik refers suggest to me that if children have a natural inclination toward a scientific mind, then we have to nurture their abilities. It’s a great irony that in order to teach our children how to function in society, we often end up curbing qualities – curiosity, fearlessness, inquisitiveness, unbridled joy – that can help them succeed in life. Or, in this case, eat more vegetables.

Read Alison Gopnik’s column here.

Going to the Source: Crabbing on Shilshole Bay

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Our friend Schelleen Rathkopf shows Meilee how to throw a crab pot into the bay.

It’s important for kids to know how food gets to the table, so they don’t think that everything simply comes from the grocery store neatly packed in plastic. We regularly visit the farmers markets and we have herbs and lettuces growing in our yard so they get a sense of connection to farmers and produce. Some day, I’ll teach them about meat butchery – since we choose to eat meat, I believe we should understand the process and ramifications of doing so. But we need to work our way up to that. For now, seeing how a crab is caught has less potential to overwhelm.

Meilee and Shen mug for the camera with their friend Grace.
Meilee and Shen mug for the camera with their friend Grace.

Of course, learning doesn’t preclude fun. Our friend Schelleen Rathkopf, a high school classmate of my husband, let us tag along with her and her kids, Grace and Arden, to set a couple of crab pots. It was a chilly evening and the water was choppy, so we got the full Seattle effect. We boarded their motor boat and Schelleen zoomed off to her family’s favorite crabbing spot.

Arden watches as his father, Charley, sails in a regatta. (Charley is the one on the left in the background.)
Arden watches as his father, Charley, sails in a regatta. (Charley is the one on the left in the background.)

After dropping the crab pots, we went to watch Schelleen’s husband, Charley, compete in a regatta. It was great for our kids to be around Grace and Arden, who have grown up around sailing and who showed such confidence and facility moving around on the boat. I want my kids to learn to be comfortable on and in the water since we do live in the Puget Sound area.

We did catch some Dungeness, but they were all too small to keep. You can keep only the males and they have to have a width of at least 6.25 inches.

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You can keep only the male crab that are at least 6.25 inches across the widest part of the carapace or shell. Schelleen shows the underside of a female crab, which has a wide abdomen. Males have a narrow abdomen.

In the end, we didn’t have any keepers. But that’s ok. The more important takeaway from the experience was to see the crabbing process, learn a little bit about boating and, of course, have some fun.

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We got a little windblown, speeding across the bay.