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Yes, My Toddler Worships the Grocery Store

Want a little one who loves fruits and vegetables? Put them in charge of unpacking the produce.

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I say this without the slightest touch of hyperbole: The highlight of my 3-year-old’s week is a trip to the farmers market.

Ditto with the grocery store.

Avi loves produce like no child I’ve ever met. In case you think I’m painting a one-dimensional, fawning picture of a toddler who loves all food in its permutations, please keep in mind: He is still a threenager and his attitudes come with all the trappings of his age. Today, broccoli is delicious; tomorrow, it might be disgusting. If you think I’m exaggerating, look no further than the adorable video on my Instagram feed where he extols the virtues of the humble turnip.

I’ve been told by child development specialists that kids—toddlers especially—love having little jobs to do, and if unloading groceries is a job, my kid could go pro. I suspect that part of Avi’s love of all things produce-related has to do with the fact that he gets to participate in the selection and preparation, from picking out the perfect pear at a greenmarket to helping me peel it for poaching.

He is still a threenager and his attitudes come with all the trappings of his age. Today, broccoli is delicious; tomorrow, it might be disgusting.

Avi’s interest in food goes beyond typical for kids his age. It comes from somewhere deep within—and doesn’t seem to be driven by the fact that I write cookbooks and develop recipes for a living. Maybe because we exposed him, from an early age, to a vast variety of ingredients and flavors, his awareness and love of food are stronger than they would’ve been otherwise, but there’s definitely something about nature vs. nurture here.

And so, over the weekend we’ll take a trip to the farmers market and the grocery store, or if we’re too busy running around, we get them delivered. When they arrive, Avi squeals with delight, “Hooray, groceries are here!” We open the bags or the boxes, and Avi leads the charge on putting the food away. In his case, it means announcing each item as if it is being presented before the Queen, depositing it on our kitchen counter, and rushing back to grab more food.

“Asparagus, Mama,” he giggles as we unpack the pencil-thin spears, “We will roast them, maybe?”

“Yes,” I say, “that is an excellent idea.”

“Look, Mama, broccoli! Mushrooms! Cheese! Apples! Cow’s milk! Dates! Raisins!”

There isn’t a single ingredient that doesn’t thrill him, and not only does he revel in cataloguing each week’s bounty, but I think it has also given him a real joy about ingredients and food. When we peruse the bins at the greenmarket, his excitement is infectious.

Most importantly, however, this has (sort of) translated into a kid who likes to eat a little bit of everything. More often than not, Avi will ask for berries over ice cream, sliced sweet bell peppers rather than cookies, and apples and carrots over cake. Don’t get me wrong, he does love sugar, like most kids his age do, but he feels more interested in the food that has a direct link to being grown, be it fruit, vegetable, or grain. (Meat is a bit of a trickier battle for us, but that’s another story.)

So each week, not only does unloading groceries allow us to share a fun experience, it also reinforces the importance of fresh, healthy ingredients. Avi is now starting to ask about how we cook each and every one of them—I can’t wait to see how much more fun we’re about to start having.

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