It’s healthy, but do follow the guidelines and wait until your child is 5 or 6 years of age before you give them sushi with raw fish. But, when your children are old enough to enjoy sushi, plan a special, fun night out and follow these guidelines to teach them to love sushi, just like their parents!
1. Start with Cooked Sushi. Face it. The only things your child eats that are raw are probably fruit, veggies and nuts. Starting a child out with a raw fish may bring out the “oh, yuck!” factor before they even take a taste. Shrimp (you know ebi) is probably a good bet especially if your children have already been introduced to it. California rolls with avocado, cucumber and cooked imitation crab (surimi) is another good starter. You can even ask if your chef will cook the fish in your child’s roll.
2. Vegetarian Sushi is Another Good Option. Sushi made with cucumber, spinach, carrots and, even, pickles gives your young sushi eater tastes that they are both familiar with and may already love.
3. When it’s Time for Fish, Choose Something The Child Knows. If your child is familiar with salmon, tuna or any other kind of fish or shellfish, start with those. Stay mild with things like halibut, snapper, scallops and that salmon or tuna. Stay away from the strongly flavored and oily fish. Mackerel and sardines are not a good place to start.
4. Dip and Enjoy. Dipping a sushi roll into soy sauce is fun! Plus, it doesn’t say “fish” quite as loudly as pieces do. So start with rolls. They’re easy to pick up and a fun “finger food” even if they are very different from anything your children have tried before.
5. Sit At the Counter – or not. Know your child. He or she may be fascinated watching the chef prepare sushi. The chef is probably going to have fun with them, stopping to chat. However, if the preparation is going to make your child say, “NO, never!” than wait for the sushi to be brought to your table – one far away from the counter!
6. Don’t Rush and Praise! You can’t force or you’ll end up losing. It’s probably going to take more than one visit. When they try something new, praise them and share your love of the food. If sushi is overwhelming, start them out with some miso soup. You can also prepare for the visit by looking up Japan on the Internet and talking about the country, its culture and its people.
Another good hint is to make the first visit to a fresh, fun quick service sushi restaurant. They’re becoming more popular everywhere and they provide a familiar setting that will help make your children feel comfortable. Take it slow. Make it fun. Pretty soon, family sushi night will become a favorite!