Walking in the grocery store with a two-year-old is never an easy task, most of us who have done so have found strategies to mitigate the short attention span and reduce the damage done by wandering hands and running feet. My strategy is simple: get him involved, teach about food.

The produce section is by far the easiest place in a modern grocery store to do this. Not only is it great to teach kids about fresh produce, but it's harder to break stuff, which is just as important. You can teach about all of the colors, all of the names, and you can start to teach about how to pick the best items. This past Saturday I struck pay-dirt, and my kid expressed a knowledge and enthusiasm for produce that I had not before seen.

Badger playing

My lovely wife Dacia, my son Badger, and I were walking around our local IGA here in Mahomet, IL, and like usual we enlisted the help of very small hands in selecting and collecting our produce. First, we went to the avocados. We asked Badger, "get two avocados." Our reply was ins

tant and enthusiastic, "two av-ca-dos, kay." He grabbed two avocados, one for each hand--each bigger than either hand--and into the cart. Then for the tomatoes, but we wanted a particular kind. "Get these tomatoes," we said, pointing at the very lovely organic vine tomatoes (at an amazing $2.39/lb). Once again, tiny hands gently lifted the produce and with great excitement dropped the tomatoes in the cart.

Now for the hard stuff. Next we asked our toddler, bounding with an energy rivaling that of the atom, get some asparagus. For those of you who know the IGA in Mahomet, the asparagus is clear to the North end of the produce section, while the avocados and tomatoes are more to the South end. Badger gives a very clear "asp-gus" response and just takes off. He knows exactly where to find the asparagus, and he knows exactly what it looks like. He picks up the largest bunch of asparagus I've ever seen in a small town grocery store, and walks over to the cart. It's only then does he learn that he's selected a bunch that is far too big. We select a smaller bunch, hand it to our small one, and ask him to put it in the cart.

When we got home you get the fun part--at least for my wife and I--of cooking and eating. We grilled the asparagus and then put it into a lovely pasta with lemon-garlic sauce with tomatoes and yellow squash. We were rewarded with a delighted "nummy nummy aspeh-gus" and a smile.

In a culture that often feeds its young "McNuggets" and "fries" multiple times per week it is important for us to take a different approach in how we raise our children. Vegans have a unique opportunity to raise our children to value real food and to enjoy it without the suffering usually caused by an American diet.

It shouldn't seem counter-cultural to teach our kids that fries and ketchup are not a proper serving of vegetables, or that vegetables can be tasty if you know how to cook.

If you have a fun parenting story you'd like to share, please do.



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