Worried that the dead animal filled food you are no longer consuming is poisoning your dear children? You should be! Don’t despair, children can be vegan too. But it isn’t always a walk in the park.
1. Bring food.
Raising vegan children is no piece of cake. Literally, that birthday cake at their friend’s party is probably not vegan. So what can you do? You can always come prepared; with a vegan cupcake baked yourself. But check with the host to be sure that they don’t mind. Offer to make the cake, or offer to bring other suitable vegan options. Anywhere you go, bring some portable snacks with you. Kids get hungry at some of the most inopportune times and you must come armed and ready. Dried fruit mixes are very handy to have around, nuts, and fruit such as bananas are also great. There are many processed snack options out there that were not intentionally created as vegan, but surprisingly are. That route is one way to go, but not the healthiest. Has junior been invited to a pizza party? No worries, find a venue that offers a vegan friendly pizza and suggest having the party there, or have junior fill up on delicious vegan pizza at home before they go.
2. Make food fun.
What do kids love more than anything? To play and have fun of course. There is no reason that being a vegan kid has to mean deprivation and brick-hard cake. Food can be entertaining as well as delicious! Cutting a sandwich into shapes, making a rainbow smoothie or just inventing silly names for old stand by dishes can get children excited again. The more rude, disgusting or silly the names are, the more fun the kids will have eating it! Allowing kids to play and experiment with their food can do a lot to improve their attitude towards healthy options. Let them dye an old pair of socks with beet juice, or use cherries to make dripping zombie blood smoothies.
3. Make food available.
Keeping healthy food such as fruit easily accessible will help kids become more interested. Leave a bowl of fresh fruit on the table for them to grab and go as they play or do their homework. Having fruit or vegetables cut up and ready to eat in the fridge will help children feel independent for being able to get their own healthy snacks and give them a sense of control when they choose to eat these nutritious foods on their own. Just like adults often do, kids will reach for which ever food is easiest to get to.
4. Talk to your children about the truth.
We don’t do our children any favours by keeping the truth from them. Even very young children are old enough to know that animals are our friends, and we don’t eat our friends. You can talk to your children about how they keep chickens in confined cages with very little food or water, and no room to move around. It is okay to tell your children that cows’ milk belongs to baby cows, just like people milk that mothers make is for baby people. There are several vegan, child-friendly books out now that educate kids in a respectful way. Ruby Roth is an excellent author of vegan children’s books.
5. Get them active.
Never underestimate how much your children can do when it comes to activism. They can hand out pamphlets, make posters for protests and peaceful demonstrations, they can do crafts to sell at fundraisers for animal organizations, and they can talk to their school about offering healthy, cruelty free lunch options. The list of activities for children is never ending as more children join in the movement all over the world. PETA has a website dedicated to kids and activism that is full of great ideas.
6. Have them meet other vegan kids.
School can be lonely for kids who are raised differently. While a few vegan kids will shine in school despite these differences, others might feel alienated because of them. Find some local vegan groups near you that might involve some vegan children, or if there is nothing nearby seek out some vegan pen pals. Kids need to be able to talk things out with their peers, but they might not want to talk to their friends about their lifestyle concerns. Finding them a vegan pen pal can help them connect with somebody who gets what they are going through.
7. Teach them about nutrition.
While kids love candy and sweets and all manner of things that aren’t good for us, they also want to do well. Just like most adults, children love the idea of growing strong and capable, having their bodies be at their best. It is important to talk to them about how their food choices affect their bodies. Some basic biology about how digestion works and what foods will make them feel sluggish vs. foods that will make them feel energized can help keep kids motivated to eat well. When we eat good, whole foods our brain function improves because our body is cleaner. That means that not only our physical selves will improve but also our mental clarity. And yes, even with that great mental clarity your children still need to study for that upcoming test!
8. Explain compassion and tolerance of others eating meat.
Unfortunately this is a necessary part of raising vegan children. Children see things in black and white, leaving very little grey area. They might be confused when they see a relative chowing down on a chicken drumstick, or licking up the juices from a pig’s ribcage. If you want to raise a good little activist, your child will need to show some understanding. It might be helpful to run over some potential situations with your child and practice what they might like to say, and to teach them that most people make their choices based on misinformation. Remind him (or her) what a great example they are being for others by following a vegan lifestyle and how inspired you are by them.
9. Take care of nature.
Kids are so infatuated with animals. To help set a good example of compassion for your children, try making some bat boxes, bird feeders, squirrel homes and creating areas in your garden for toads to hide in. Allowing your child to feel helpful towards the local wildlife can do a lot to instill a sense of purpose and responsibility. There is so much you can do to care for those around us. Consider planting trees and talk to you kids about leaving fallen stumps alone, as they house many creatures that do not want to be disturbed. Picking up litter in local trails or on the beaches can make a difference for many animals.
10. Let them plant a salad garden.
There is nothing better than digging in the dirt! This is another teaching opportunity as your child digs up worms to look at and plants little seeds. Show your child how important even the smallest creatures of our Earth are. Then plant all the fixings for a great salad and let your child help take care of it. Once it’s grown and ready to eat, your little one will love picking his or her own veggies and making a salad all by themselves. This is a great way to introduce new foods or spark an interest in previously ignored greens.
11. Make good choices.
You have to keep yourself fit and healthy too. Don’t buy a bunch of junk food, and eat healthy in front of your children. They will always follow your lead. If they see you munching down on French fries, potato chips, and processed vegan nuggets then they are going to want to eat those things too. And watch out, because while it is nice to have a treat once in a while kids are easily hooked on these convenience items! If you want your children to eat healthy, vegan food; be a good role model. Also, don’t be afraid to let them see how passionate you are about animal rights and stand up to injustice at every opportunity. You are raising vegan warriors, after all.
12. Breast is best.
Watch out for formula, filled with dead animals and other horrors! For the first few years of their lives, children should be breastfed. There is no reason to give a human baby the breast milk from a cow. That milk is for the cows’ baby, just as a human mother has milk for her human baby. Breast milk is an amazing substance. When you kiss your baby’s hand, the bacteria on your baby’s skin enters your body and all kinds of fascinating communication goes on between the bacteria, your brain, and your breasts. Your body will create antibodies for any harmful bacteria surrounding your baby and release it in your breast milk. Don’t be put off of breastfeeding too soon, either. Many government regulated health programs recommend nursing until at least age two. Beyond that, it is natural for a child to self-wean around the age of three or four. This is a great health insurance policy!
Toddlers are known for being finicky eaters and many parents worry that their wee tot isn’t getting the nutrients that they need. With breast milk that is no longer a concern. Breastfeeding is also a form of emotional comfort and support, and helps your child to connect with you and feel safe. Children are naturally vulnerable, and when you nurse your child you are saying “Hey, it is okay. I’m here for you and I am not going anywhere.” This is a compassionate, convenient and healthy way to give vegan kids a great start in life! And if breast feeding is not an option, look for a donor clinic for breast milk, or find a vegan formula alternative.
The family vegan lifestyle doesn’t have to be intimidating. With these tips above and so many available resources, parenting a vegan child can be a real joy. It starts with you.