You may recall a book review I did awhile back for a darling and helpful book “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals” by Ruby Roth. Today I have the great pleasure of sharing with you an article Ruby wrote just for us with tips on raising your kids vegetarian. DkMommy Spot has always had a large number of vegetarian and vegan readers, so I’m happy to bring you Ruby’s insights.
Now We Are Vegan: Tips for Transitioning Your Kids
I was teaching art at an elementary school when my students noticed that I consistently declined the string-cheese served at recess. As they asked questions, I gave them adult-ish, matter-of-fact answers about why I didn’t eat milk (“cow pus,” as I called it)…and they loved it! I talked about the emotional lives of animals, their treatment on factory farms, and how the consumption of animals affects the environment and endangered species. No child was freaked out or overwhelmed, in fact, they really appreciated being trusted with what seemed to have been secrets about food. They asked a lot of questions and shocked me with their profound insights. Most students told me they wished to go vegan.
I realized that when children understand the impact of our choices, they choose wisely and with a great sense of empowerment. When we give them tangible ideas about things they can do to be healthier, or to save animals and the environment—like veganism—action is not a question but a conclusion. It was my experience that even children raised on fast-food were ready and willing to Go Veg.
So congrats if you’ve decided to do so with your family! To keep the commitment fresh, and to help your kids feel confident about the transition, it is important to provide opportunities wherein they experientially understand the value and joy of veg life. It is key to introduce your little ones to practices that actively bolster and justify their veganism and create a sense of connectedness to food, animals, and the environment. Enjoy the following tips with your children for a smooth transition on the best journey ever:
•Grocery Shopping: Picking fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market is a great moment to talk about where we spend our money, where it goes, and where it’s not going (as in factory farms). Your kids get to hold the money, hand it over to a farmer in exchange for some beautiful fruit, and learn the power they have with their purchases.
•Miscellaneous Shopping: Turn boring chores like picking up cleaning products or shampoo into hunts for cruelty-free logos. Shopping is also a perfect time to point out and discuss other animal products like gelatin, leather, ivory, etc.
•Meal Prep: Give your children jobs in the kitchen. Let them help you wash salad, cut vegetables, and push the buttons on the blender. They’ll be much more inclined to try new foods when they’re invested in the preparation. It’s hard to resist tasting something you’ve made yourself.
•Snack Time: When you have your kids’ friends over, break out the vegan super-food snacks! Kids love goji berries, hemp seeds (yummy sprinkled on a banana!), coconut, and raw chocolate. Explain why, nutritionally and ethically, you choose these snacks over others (such as neon-colored Cheeto-type thingies).
•Connect with Animals: Recently, my family visited Animal Acres, a sanctuary for animals rescued from factory farms, 4H programs, abuse cases, etc. Visiting those animals was incredibly joyful and provided the space to talk to our five year old about why those animals were there, why some looked happy or sad, and why they needed our love and protection. In moments like these, there is born a lasting impression of compassion towards all living beings. Other ideas: volunteer at a shelter, rescue a pet, or see if your local children’s hospital has a pet therapy volunteer program where you can cheer up inpatients by visiting with your pet. It’s proven that a pet’s love can help heal.
•School: Show-and-Tell, book reports, essays, and science projects all provide opportunities for your child to articulate and share their beliefs or interests in veganism and animal rights—if they so please, of course. Standing up for his/her beliefs in a safe space will boost your child’s confidence and help their peers understand veganism from a friend’s point of view.
•Charity & Giving: Teach your children about giving. If they are so inclined, suggest fun fundraisers for animal-friendly organizations. They can start a penny-collecting contest between classrooms. Whichever class wins gets to donate the funds to an animal sanctuary, or environmental cause of their choice.
•Plant a garden: OK, if not a full-on backyard organic garden, then plant one seed! In any container! Get any container out of your recycling bin, let your kids do the work, and watch the magic happen! Kids are much more inclined to eat a tomato off the vine or taste a mint leaf if they watch it grow and pick it themselves. Or talk to your child’s school about building an organic garden box in the yard.
•Birthday Parties: Prepare something vegan to share at the party table or as a gift to the birthday kid. Even better—sponsor an elephant “adoption” in the child’s name-http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org, for example.
•Politics: As an ongoing practice, ask your children what issues are important to them. Have them write letters to an authority figure that represents the issue. Teach your kids about their power to stand up for themselves and others.
Purchase “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things” by Ruby Roth.