Explaining The Food Chain To a Kid

4 years ago

The other day, I was teaching my step-son about the food chain and all that goes with it. Eian and I regularly do science experiments and learn about the world around us after school. His mother and I had changed our diet to a vegan diet a few weeks prior so naturally, Eian is going to have questions because no one else around him eats like we do.

Image: hahatango via Flickr


Since my wife and I have changed our diet, Eian has always had the option to have cheese and meat that comes from animals. What sparked us to talk about the food chain is, Eian asked me, "Why is it healthier to eat more fruits and vegetables then meat?"

The Plants
I took a moment to think of a good way to explain this to a six-year-old in a fun and interesting way. Then it clicked, draw it out!

We started at the bottom, talking about plants and where they get their food from. I told him that there is tiny pieces of food that plants eat that is in the ground. This then sparked his question, "How do the plants get the food?" I chuckled and told him that plants have roots. I was able to show him the roots of my coleus plant. I explained that roots are like a straw, and plants suck up the food from the ground.

"So, why can’t we just eat dirt?" he wondered. I explained that we need the plants to turn the food from the ground into a form that we can eat and that form is the plants.

The Animals
Then we talked about the zebra for a moment and told him that zebras eat plants only, as they are herbivores. The zebra cannot eat meat like us, they have to get their food from plants.

This linked us to the lion. I had told him that the lion only eats meat, so the lion eats the zebra. I have read that some lions and tigers can eat berries, but to explain that to a six -year-old is a bit off track.

Back to business. Since the Lion eats the zebra, he has to eat a lot of zebra to get his nutrients. The reason why he has to eat a lot of zebra is because the zebra has used much of the nutrients that it had absorbed from the plant.

So, I asked Eian, "If you want a lot of nutrients, would you eat the lion, or would you eat the zebra?"

He said, "Zebra, because the lion would not have enough good stuff."

Then I asked, "Would the zebra or the plant have more nutrients?"

"The plant."

My final comment was this: "If I can get more nutrients from a plant then I can a zebra, then I do not need to kill the zebra to be full. I could simply grow my own food, and share the extra with the zebra."

His eyes lit up, and later that day, he ate a pepperoni pizza.

The Take Away
Humans are able to obtain all of their nutrients from plants. I do not need to kill a fish if  I need omega-3, I can simply eat flax seed.

After all, where does the cow get his vitamin E? From the grass. For my wife and I, there is no need to kill a chicken, pig, cow or goat for us to have all of our nutrients. There is a more simple way that actually helps the planet. The more crops we grow, the more air we make for you and us.

Did you know that changing to a vegetarian diet, on average saves the lives of about 50 animals per year?

--Mercy for Animals


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