Dr. Greene’s Answer:
Breakfast is indeed an important meal. Research has shown that it’s very important to learning. On average, kids who eat breakfast, score better on learning tests and behave better in school. Breakfast is also important for overall nutrition. Kids who get some calcium at breakfast, for instance, are much more likely to get an adequate daily supply.
Having said that, we never want to push, prompt, coax, or plead with kids to eat. Instead we want to create an environment that supports enjoying healthy amounts of great food (what I call Nutritional Intelligence):
- The best bet for getting kids to enjoy breakfast is having the whole family (or as much of the family as is practical) eat together, so breakfast becomes a special family time. Eating is easier if it’s a shared experience–no pressure to eat, just all sit together with a selection of yummies in front of you.
- Breakfast aromas can be a real ally, helping to wake us – and our appetites – from slumber.
- A little physical activity before breakfast can also make breakfast more fun – even working together to get breakfast on the table. He can help peel the banana or rinse the berries for some whole grain cereal, for instance.
- In fact, the more the child is involved in preparing the meal the better. You won’t want your 4-year-old to call the shots about whatever he wants to eat, but you might want him to help select between two healthy choices for the family, or help select the order of breakfast this week. (Which implies, by the way, that you may not want all breakfasts the same).
- A little variety in the morning meal can also stimulate the appetite.