It takes a lot of effort to convince our littlest members of society that swopping a sweetie for a carrot could be good for them.
But for Soweto-born early childhood development educator Palesa Mojapelo, all it took was a food garden and teaching the little ones how to grow their own vegetables.
Now they are hooked.
A mother of three, Mojapelo is the founder of Kiddicare 24/7 in the South of Johannesburg, where she educates young ones on the benefits of healthy eating and growing their own food.
“For them this experience was exciting – to see vegetables from being a seed, to growing, to it being cooked. I would advise parents to do the same at home so that they are part of this learning experience.
“Vegetables also have different colours, and each vegetable has a role to play in the child’s body. We also let them know that if they do not eat their carrots, they will not see [well] or they will not grow big and strong. We make sure that we incorporate fun into the healthy eating aspect,” she says.
From seed to plate
Mojapelo swopped her marketing degree for a bachelor’s in education from the University of South Africa (UNISA) to pursue her true passions in childcare.
“I grew up in a home where I was the only child and have always loved being around children,” she says.
She founded Kiddicare 24/7 after she noted a need for a pre-school that aligned with the schedules of parents who worked late nights.
Dealing with little people and convincing them to eat vegetables was easy for Mojapelo. Tapping into their childhood wonderment, she helped them build their own garden so that they had access to fresh vegetables to cook.
“I believe that introducing healthy living for children at a young age will make them better adults. And healthy eating is cheaper, even though a lot of people say it is expensive.”
Fit kiddie culture
Mojapelo adds that they have introduced weekly physical education for their children.
“Being fit and eating healthy should be their lifestyle and we encourage parents to instil this at home as well.”
Nobantu Mkhize, a parent at Kiddicare, says she was impressed when her three-year-old chose vegetables over sweets at home.
“It was a week or two after my child started at Kiddicare. I remember giving her sweets and she boldly told me that she does not eat sweets but vegetables and fruits. I was beaming with pride, and I figured she learned that at school.”
Nothing gives Mojapelo more fulfilment than knowing she has some impact on the growth of a child.
“Just being around these little voices who are always happy, warms my heart. But seeing every child grow is priceless. You become amazed at how some children come in shy and over the months they become confident. It’s like watching a flower fully blossom.”