Whilst trying new and exotic foods might be your favorite part of foreign travel, your kids probably don’t feel the same. For them, a week away from chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and peanut butter might seem more like mild torture than culinary enlightenment.
Ease them through the transition from fish sticks to sushi with some fun reading materials.
These 7 children’s books will help endear them to foreign cuisine and make vacation meal-times a little easier:
1) Everybody Cooks Rice
Carrie sees how culturally diverse families prepare rice in her neighborhood in Norah Dooley’s book.
Teaching your children about foreign foods can start right in your own neighborhood, suggests Norah Dooley’s “Everybody Cooks Rice.”
This story follows Carrie as she searches the neighborhood to bring her brother home at dinnertime.
Along the way, she’s invited into several ethnically diverse households, where a common dish is being prepared—rice. She tries everything from Italian risi e bisi to Barbadian rice and black-eyed peas.
Recipes are included in the back of the book. If you like Dooley’s style, you can check out her follow-up books about food: “Everybody Bakes Bread,” “Everybody Serves Soup” and “Everybody Brings Noodles.”
(Reading level ages 6–12).
2) Strega Nona
Meet Strega Nona and her famous pasta in Tomie dePaola’s classic folktale.
Winner of the 1976 Caldecott Honor for children’s literature, “Strega Nona” has been captivating young readers for decades.
The story reveals the magic of Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot, which produces delicious Calabrian noodles on command. That is, until her helper Big Anthony gets ambitious and, not knowing Strega Nona’s secret to halt pasta production, ends up flooding the town with pasta!
Tomie dePaola’s whimsical folktale will endear your kids to everyone’s favorite “Grandma Witch”—and her pasta!
(Reading level ages 7–9).
3) Hola! Jalapeno
Entertain the little ones with the vibrant pictures and clever rhymes in Amy Wilson Sanger’s book about Mexican food.
Introduce your kids to food south of the border with this hot little read. Targeted toward toddlers, Amy Wilson Sanger’s book includes vibrant illustrations and rhymes that roll off the tongue.
But the fun doesn’t stop in Mexico. “Hola! Jalapeno” is part of the World Snack book series, which includes fun food poetry for kids about Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Italian cuisine.
(Reading level ages 1–3).
4) Come and Eat with Us
Take your kids on a culinary tour around the world with Annie Kubler’s book.
This book takes kids on a round the world culinary adventure, introducing them to fictional children from India, Mozambique, Lebanon, Vietnam, Bolivia and El Salvador.
Each character shares his or her favorite foods with the reader and provides a list of typical foods found in his or her native country.
Best of all, it’s part of a four-part series by author Annie Kubler that introduces children to foreign cultures. Throughout the series, young readers can also learn about housing, transportation and recreation in other countries.
(Reading level ages 4–8).
5) Bee-bim Bop!
This whimiscal tale bops its way through the preparation of a classic Korean dish.
Linda Sue Park’s imaginative book takes readers through the process of making Korea’s Bee-bim Bop (mix-mix rice), starting at the grocery store and ending at the kitchen table.
The book’s engaging rhythm and rhyme are great for young readers—merely saying the name of the dish will bring a smile to their faces.
The author includes a simple recipe for Bee-bim Bop in the back of the book.
(Reading level ages 5–8).
6) What the World Eats
Visit 25 families in 21 countries with your kids in this adaptation of “Hungry Planet.”
Adapted from the popular book “Hungry Planet,” this children’s book describes the weekly diet of 25 families in 21 countries around the world.
To help kids digest the nonfiction, the book includes full-color photographs, a world map and weekly grocery lists for each family.
Authors Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel muse, “It’s interesting to watch children with this book in their hands. It doesn’t require being read from front to back and they don’t approach it in that manner anyway; they’re drawn in by the food portraits and begin immediately to compare themselves to what they see.”
“What the World Eats” may spark your child’s curiosity about big picture questions, and as an added bonus, the book includes charts about child literacy, life expectancy and safe water around the world.
(Reading level ages 9 and up).
7) Green Eggs and Ham
The perfect book to teach picky eaters an important lesson, courtesy of Dr. Seuss.
While this Dr. Seuss classic is based in a make-believe land with a make-believe dish, the plot is all too reminiscent of struggles to convince our own kids to try exotic dishes.
The book’s picky eater insists that he does “not like green eggs and ham”—until he tries them, of course!
Through its playful rhymes and quirky illustrations, “Green Eggs and Ham” demonstrates a simple lesson for young readers: the foods they’re most afraid of trying might end up being their favorites!
(Reading level ages 4–8).
If you liked this, you might also like: 101 Foodie Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Finding the Best Meals Abroad.
Have you used a book or story to teach your children about foreign foods or to get them to try a new dish? Let me know in the comments below.
Main photo: Picky eaters are no longer a problem by barron (Barron Fujimoto).