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How OpenIDEO helped my son eat more healthily

This is my story of how my son Archie came to eat like a Lion (from barely eating like a mouse). It was all thanks to one of the OpenIDEO inspirations on the Jamie Oliver challenge exactly a year ago.

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My son Archie has always been a tricky eater. He would do anything to avoid eating - it's a miracle he grows at all! But today he eats like a champion, or maybe to be more specific, a Lion.

It all started this time last year when we kicked off the Jamie Oliver challenge about helping kids eat more healthily. I was reading the inspirations and saw this one Eat Like an Animal from Jim Mitchem. The essence of his inspiration is:

"Whether it's asking children to consider what their favorite animals might eat, or to have them choose an animal(s) to emulate, the idea here is to challenge children to consider eating less processed and more fresh foods. Animals in the wild flourish on organic food. By asking children to choose a favorite animal(s) to emulate, we build on that child's natural fascination with animals, and begin educating them on how processed foods are unnatural."

I was inspired when I read this, and that night I sat Archie down and tried to get him to be a variety of different animals. No matter what I did, it didn't really work. But I didn't give up. I kept trying different role playing tricks, getting him to mimick me, etc but mostly I just looked silly. Once or twice I noticed a slight increase in what he ate, any in part because eating was suddenly more fun, but it wasn't really sticking.

I've been trying and iterating this idea for a year now and I'm happy to say that it now works perfectly and results in a clean bowl. It works so well in fact that the behaviour of eating well has stuck and I only occassionally get asked 'Daddy will you do the lion thing again?' I thought you might be interested in how I adapted the inspiration:

Archie will be sitting playing with toys refusing to eat. I'll announce in an overly dramatic voice that the great Archie the Lion is coming to the Great Stadium of La Honda (town where we live). I'll fake the sound of the crowd going crazy with excitement and then comment on the scene as if I was a cross between a football and a grand prix commentator. Archie at this point starts snarling and is on all fours. He's crawling towards the table. He then 'mounts' his podium (his chair) and thus begins the commentary of how Archie the Lion is ripping apart his food (chicken), devouring the flesh (of the sweetcorn), and generally cleaning the plate of every dish (we found smaller portions creates better game mechanics for him - smaller goals = more achievement).

Hopefully this inspires you with your parenting / behaviour change challenges. I'd love to hear your thoughts. We're still learning... Thanks to the OpenIDEO community and thanks  Jim Mitchem.


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Nice sharing, simple but meaningful. I think sometimes the reason we cant't really make the children do the right thing is that we stand in front of them as a grown-up and try to force them or persuade them. While children seek more fun rather than truth, sometimes if we can act as a child and show that we are trying to play with him to have fun together, guiding would be much easier. A playmate can have more impact on the behavior of them.

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