I’ve worked for the Children’s Food Trust for almost six years now, so it goes without saying that I have a huge interest in what children eat and why, both personally and professionally. But there’s nothing like becoming a parent yourself to see some of the issues we work on in a whole new light. And right now, as it’s Easter, it’s chocolate.
Like every parent, I want my daughter to grow up eating loads of different things. And that includes chocolate. It doesn’t take a child to tell you how lovely chocolate is; most of us would agree, it’s one of life’s great pleasures. I absolutely want her to enjoy a gorgeous bit of gooey chocolate cake now and again, and that wonderful taste of a few melty squares with a cup of tea on a chilly day.
But I also want to teach her that chocolate is (sigh) one of those foods you can’t eat all the time, however much you might want to. I find it as hard as the next person to resist a plate of chocolate biscuits; it’s just that when you work for a charity that champions great food for children and the power of eating well, you kind of have to practise what you preach; when you’re surrounded all day by research on the difference good food makes to your ability to concentrate and perform, you’d be a mug to ignore it.
And I can already see how hard this is going to be. We’re trying not to give our little one chocolate until we have no other choice; until she’s starting to exercise at least some control over what she eats and when (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from our wonderful nutritionists, the best way to help children keep sugar and salt levels down in their diet is by not giving them a taste for sugar and salt in the first place, and I’m determined to do the best I can to stick with that).
But at the grand old age of 14 months, my daughter’s been given two chocolate eggs for Easter. I LOVE my family and friends for buying her Easter presents, but maybe some less chocolatey ways to celebrate could be fun too, particularly when she’s so little: colouring in some hard-boiled eggs, going to see the spring ducklings in the park, getting all Blue Peter to make some bunny ears or rabbit shapes to play with (thankfully, there are many, much better ideas than mine here, courtesy of Netmums). Because more than anything to eat (sometimes even more than chocolate), what kids love is a little slice of our time.
If you’re celebrating Easter with a little one (or a bigger one) this year and you want to mark the occasion without a shed-load of sugar, here are some truly fabulous ways to give kids a bit of your time with eggs: