We live in an area where there are some but not tons of veg families, and we are vegan. At this time, I haven't really given my young 2 year old any information about the fact that we are vegan and why. She just knows we don't eat as many others do. (We also don't eat refined sugar or much added sugar at all.) We have a big community of friends with children. None of them are vegan, but they are very tolerant of our habits/beliefs so far. For the next year or so at least, she will probably never been in a group environment without me or her father with her. I know the time is coming when my daughter will need to understand what the story is with our eating habits, to avoid emotional discomfort and to help her make vegan choices. (We have already decided that, if when she is school aged, she chooses to eat animal products with friends or other people, we won't stop her, though we will remind her why we don't eat animals.)
I don't want to tell my daughter the story of animal cruelty in detail at this point. I don't expect her to be an animal rights activist unless when she is older that is what she feels it in her heart to do. I just want to give her the opportunity to feel good about how she eats even in the face of many awkward circumstances and needing to sometimes say "no" to foods that are appealing. I have played with the idea of her not being vegan at birthday parties, etc., but I don't really like that idea.
So, are there any good books for really little ones like her that don't emphasize the pain and suffering of animals too much? How have you dealt with this subject with your toddlers?
Mama to a bilingual (Arabic/English) and cuddly 3 year old, and planning another peaceful homebirth in June.
I'm still pregnant with my first, and I am trying to decide if something that puts total responsibility on the parents (e.g., "Dad and I think that stuff is no good to eat," or "Our family doesn't eat meat, milk, or eggs. We eat other foods, instead.") is best, or if it is okay, or even better, to give a very brief explanation of the real reason, e.g., "Animals want to live."
As a vegan nanny, I have fielded questions from preschoolers, and usually said something like, "I don't eat meat because I like animals, and I think they want to live." The kids are sometimes still puzzled as to why I don't drink milk. Depending on the family (some are hugely pro-dairy), I either say, "Milk makes me sick; it's kind of like I'm allergic." (which is true - milk is awful on my sinuses, though this isn't my main reason for being vegan), or "They have to hurt the cows and calves to get milk, too." Children as young as two typically don't ask me about my diet, though if I were also making it their diet (not a nanny's place, obviously), they might ask at this young age.
I always told my son, "I don't think the chicken wanted to get eaten."
If we had been vegan, I would have said, "If we drink the milk, there's no milk for the baby cows."
My son is almost 6. He is vegetarian by choice now. (I don't know that he knows that. If he wanted to eat meat somewhere else, he could, though we haven't/won't tell him that. He has little contact with meat except when my husband eats it on our very rare dining out experiences.)He has never expressed a desire to eat meat. When the subject comes up he makes disgusted sounds/words.
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, and cane sugar free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it. See me at
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Resurrecting this slightly old thread, because I'm struggling with the same question. DD is 2.5 yo, and only now starting to notice that other people are eating things that she isn't. This is not an issue yet, as there are lots of things we eat/drink that she doesn't (beer, coffee/tea, extremely spicy foods), but soon she's going to notice that her friends and cousins have meat on their plates and she doesn't, and she's going to ask.
At Thanksgiving this year, she caught sight of the turkey and asked, wide-eyed, "what is that?!?!" I just said, "don't worry about it, it's not food!" Which of course offended the relative who roasted the darn thing, but, well, you can't please everybody. I didn't have the heart to tell her, "oh, that's the body of a dead turkey, you know, like the turkeys who gobble gobble at you when we go visit them on the farm?"
Anyone have any experience with this? I hate to think how she's going to react when she realizes that some people actually eat animals -- she's a sensitive soul and reacts strongly to any hint of violence, and even though we don't participate in the violence, I think it will be hard on her to realize that the people she loves do.
Maybe something like, "That's something we don't eat"?
It's actually nice that your main worry is that your daughter will be shocked that some people eat animals. I'm afraid of losing that "shocked" feeling too early, and having a toddler or preschooler who says things like, "I don't care about animals!" or "I want to eat meat!"
I started saying, " Oh, we don't eat that - it has animals in it and we don't eat animals" when DS1 was pretty young. At four, I've been able to use the term "vegan" a little and he seems to understand what it means according to the definition above.
This Christmas, he is getting a book called, "That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegetarians, Vegans, and All Living Things." It talks about animal cruelty topics without being graphic.
It is interesting - I have been waiting for the day when one of the kids freaks out because they want something non-vegan, and it just hasn't happened. DS1 is used to eating different food from the other kids at preschool, and has no issue with it. Same deal at birthday parties. I think that because this is all he has ever known, eating something else doesn't really seem like an option (yet, anyway).
We did have one weird moment on Thanksgiving. DH, a former chef, often gets recruited to cut up the turkey despite being vegan. He does it out of habit (he worked at an omni place while being vegan). This was the first year that DS has really noticed. He asked DH where the turkey's face was. I am wondering if DH might bow out of carving duty next year... I think it was a good lesson for everyone.
Watch it with that book. It broke my little one's heart, and caused her to get really really upset at her omni grandmother, begging her tearfully to stop hurting animals. The reality is hard for adults to deal with, let alone a kid.
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