So, you’ve just moved to Japan and want to get adventurous with the local cuisine, but your little one just can’t bear the thought of it?! Been there, done that — and I know I’m not the only one. At our first sushi-go-round dinner upon moving to Japan, when my son was just under two years old, he stuck to French fries and wouldn’t try even a bite of sushi. We knew it would take a bit of patience and practice, but we also knew it was essential to teach our children to adjust to the cuisine of our new home.
Conventional wisdom teaches parents to serve new foods multiple times to children, prepared different ways, and to understand that it might take many times before your child will even try a bite, let alone enjoy the new food. But, it can be difficult to get your children to love completely foreign food.
Here are five practical ways through which you can increase the odds of your kid eating well in Japan despite being away from home.
1. Start small… and slow
When recently chatting with a friend soon planning to move to Japan, I mentioned she should try to serve more rice at home now. It’s a staple of so many Japanese meals, it’s a reliable food my children will always eat, and it’s a good base from which to grow more adventurous about which foods the rice is topped with.
When a Japanese friend once saw me feeding rice to my baby daughter at lunch, she suggested mixing it with a bit of miso soup for a few reasons: It was easier to eat, it was more delicious and it helped get my baby get used to the flavors of Japanese foods.
The same general idea works with noodles. When restaurants offer us a set of children’s bowls and utensils, we would give our son some of the noodles from our ramen (noodle soup with meat and vegetables) — minus the soup. He’s since graduated to his own mini-bowl of ramen from the kids’ menu and eats everything along with the noodles.
2. Involve them in the obento-making process
At my son’s kindergarten, children eat the school lunches three days a week, and parents send in an obento (packed lunch) on the other two days. It’s a chance for the children to both try new foods through the school and to enjoy their standby favorites from home.
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