Want to introduce your children to some new foods? You may be inspired by what fellow parents around the world are doing.
The Dutch Caribbean island blends flavors from 55 different ethnicities, so the kids have a really unique choice of foods incorporating Indonesian, Dutch, and Venezuelan traditions. Keshi yená, or stuffed cheese, is a definite favorite. The dish originated during the island’s slave era when kitchen workers would stuff hollowed cheese rinds with bits of discarded meat scraps, and steam it to turn the rind soft again. It’s now a household favorite, and of course it is; what kid wouldn’t love stuffed cheese?
Chris Hoyt, Co-Founder of LanguaTravel, organizes Costa Rican kids’ camps and language immersion programs for hundreds of families each year, so coming up with healthy, kid-friendly cuisine is something they think about quite often. “We've found that the most popular food with local kids as well as travelers is the Costa Rican staple gallo pinto (guy-oh peentoh). It's pretty simple to make, and you can find it in virtually any restaurant in Costa Rica. We serve it in all of our camps, as it's generally allergy-friendly and not too challenging to the young palate.” Gallo pinto consists of black beans and rice, cooked together in oil, and can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is commonly served with an egg, or as part of a casado (a traditional Costa Rican platter) with chicken and fried plantains.
“We lived in India for a few years and we had one of our kids while living there," adds Barta. "My son's first solid food was kitchri, which is rice and lentils boiled together. There are some other fantastic Indian street foods like bhel puri and pani puri which are delicious and festive because you usually eat them when you're out of the house doing something fun!” Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, founder and CEO of MomaBoard.com, says the kid-friendly food options in India are endless. There’s dosa, sort of a crêpe that is served plain or with potatoes, and paratha, a North Indian favorite, a type of wheat bread that can be stuffed with potatoes, vegetables, or minced meat.
Any kid who likes macaroni and cheese — and we challenge you to find one who doesn’t — will love cacio e pepe. This is a classic Roman dish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and cracked black pepper, tossed with spaghetti and olive oil. Other kid-friendly foods in Italy include pizza, served in the Italian thin-crust style; stuffed tomatoes; and roasted vegetables. Nutella, a spread that was developed in Italy and has become popular with people worldwide, is delicious, too. Kids in Italy enjoy their Nutella spread on bread or apples.
Gina London is an American former CNN correspondent who now travels around the world providing communications consulting and training programs for business professionals, churches, and other organizations. “Now I'm spending a lot of time in Nigeria and have introduced my 6-year-old daughter, Lulu, to two of West Africa's delightful staples: plantains and yam root. Plantain chips are Lulu's go-to instead of cheese puffs or other over-processed snacks. And I have used boiled yam with honey and fruit as an alternative to sweet morning cereal for breakfast. As a starch, yams aren't jam-packed with protein or multi-vitamins, but they're a filling alternative to other sides and they can also be used to make cakes and other desserts if your child is gluten-free.”
Children in Poland love pierogi, which are dumplings of unleavened dough that are boiled and then baked or fried, usually in butter with onions. This kid-friendly treat is often stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit.
Feijoada, made with black beans and an assortment of meat, is part of Brazil’s national cuisine and is super popular with kids. Pão de queijo is also fun for kids and easy to make. It’s a dish of little balls of puffed cheesy cassava-flour bread. What’s not to like? For Brazilian children with a sweet tooth, brigadeiro is a very popular snack: a fudge ball made with sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder, covered in chocolate sprinkles.
Much like the kids of the rest of the world love what they can eat with their hands, Mexican children love antojitos, which is word for Mexican street food snacks, including tacos and quesadillas. Anything that starts with a tortilla — and thus can fit in your hand — will be a hit with young eaters. With a quesadilla, the tortilla is folded in half, filled with cheese, and toasted, basically making it a Mexican grilled cheese. Tacos are also popular, as are taquitos, which are small, rolled-up tortillas stuffed with meat, such as this chicken variety. The neat little packaging makes them easier to eat than tacos.
Pretzels dunked in mustard are a traditional treat that German kids love. In the southwest, a noodle dish called spätzle, the German answer to the world’s love affair with the pasta of Italy, is popular with kids. It’s a dumpling and Italian pasta hybrid that can be mixed with various sauces or gravies, or eaten on its own.
France isn’t big on the “kid’s meal” (or ketchup, for that matter), as kids often eat smaller versions of what their parents are eating. Kids in France enjoy savory crêpes or omelets paired with fruits or vegetables. Of course, like with kids everywhere who enjoy the bliss that eating with your hands can bring, snacks like croissants and the croque-monsieur (basically an open-face grilled cheese with ham) are also popular with French children
Tatiana Tugbaeva, owner of My Little Jules, grew up in Russia, and the first dish her mom and grandma made for her was syrniki. “Syrniki are basically fried patties made from cottage cheese. They are usually slightly sweet and served with sour cream and jam or sweet condensed milk. Another dish was makarony po flotsky (sailors' pasta). To make this dish, you simply need to mix cooked pasta with fried ground meat, fry the mixture for a little bit, and sprinkle some cheese on top.” Simple as that.