Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Vegan in Kindergarten - What Vegan Kids Need to Know for School

My son was a vegetarian since birth and right before Kindergarten I finally got him to go completely vegan. When my husband finally went plant based at home it made the switch much easier for the kids who were basically only eating animal products when their dad bought them  and gave the foods to them or let them buy or order food without asking. I was glad the kids and Hubs went vegan when they did because being vegan in Kindergarten was a challenge. It was much more than vegan kids lunches, but we have many of those too!

To make it easier for anyone who has a vegan child who is starting school or would like to start school or go back to school as a vegan, here's everything we learned about being vegan in school.

1. Vegan Basics for Kids

Right before school started and for pretty much the whole year after, I focused on speaking to the kids a lot about veganism and the reasons not buying animal products for them any more but it started in a very basic way.

I told both of my kids animals get hurt or killed whenever they are used for food and people are mean to them so we always ask if something is vegan or if it has animal products in it.

Almost every day we discussed situations and conversations the kids had at school about food and animals and I made sure to educate myself in order to educate them. You can check out or Vegan Resources tab which has links to lots of information that can be adapted for kids to understand.

Recommended reading for vegan kids:

V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth

Kiss or Cook by Lulu Lotus

The Supervegan by Katie Clark

That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things by Ruby Roth

2. Pack a Vegan School Lunch

Unless you are in a vegan friendly school, schools may not have a vegan option for lunch. They offered vegetarian options in our school but not vegan so we pack a lunch every day.

We did a little bento box and snack bags in preschool and for Kindergarten, I broke down and bought a pricier Planetbox and used reusable snack bags for snack. It was super easy and fun to fill with a variety of plant based foods each day and he seemed to enjoy it. They don't allow the kids to share food so that wasn't an issue.

More of our resources for vegan school lunches:

3. Dealing with Treats and Birthdays

There may be treats for birthdays that happen throughout the school year and special occasions at school. Most of the items on our school's approved treat list are not vegan. Every school district has different policies on food but it is always a good idea to make sure your kid can ask these questions...

"Is it vegan?" 

"Does it have any animal products in it?" 

"Can you tell me if there are any ingredients that come from an animal like milk or eggs? 

And your child can answer:

"No thank you, I won't eat that because I don't eat things that come from animals. I'm vegan"


- Send a box of vegan cookies like Enjoy Life brand for school parties. They are vegan and allergen free!

- We also gave out little toys instead of a treat for birthdays which we think is fun.

- Promise to make the vegan version of whatever treat they had at school at home (or just buy or make an awesome vegan sweet treat!)

Remind the kids that they can survive a sweet treat at school, but animals can't. They may feel like they want the sweet treat but remember you can ask for something special after school!

I always pack a cupcake and some food for a birthday party outside of school as well. You can either freeze a batch of cupcakes or buy a cupcake or a treat from the store. I've wrapped a vegan hot dog in a tortilla with vegan cheese and put it in a bento box with a vegan donut and sent my kid to a party and he was perfectly happy with that.

4. The Farm Lesson

There will be farm lesson plans in Kindergarten and preschool where they teach that it is healthy, normal, and necessary to use animals for food, clothing and other commodities in as innocent and charming terms as possible like the word "harvest" for slaughter and saying "pigs give us bacon, cows give us milk, sheep give us clothes" etc.

Our lesson was about a month of lesson plans which seemed to focus on normalizing the use of animals through fun and cute animal activities. It is very common to have some type of farm animals visit the classroom or perhaps take the kids on a field trip to a farm. My son had an egg incubator in the classroom and The Dairy Council brought a trailer with a roll-up door and a lactating dairy cow to my son's school along with a cute and fun activity book which of course didn't touch on any of the cruelty or death.

5. Dealing with Non-vegans

We try help our vegan kids to understand why other kids and grown ups eat animal products in a way that is gentle and doesn't demonize or shame people, so they can make friends and be kind and respectful to their friends and teachers. Hopefully the way they learn to speak about food and other speciesist practices will not seem judgmental or accusatory. This is something we keep talking about regularly and we have come up with some things you can say that will help explain non-vegans to kids.

Positive ways to explain non-vegans to kids:

- Humans used to need to eat meat to survive but we no longer have to. Now there are an abuncance of plant based foods to eat.

- Many of us have learned about all the other foods we can eat that don't come from animals and it turns out it is much healthier for our bodies to eat these other foods instead.

- What happens to animals on "farms" is so scary, parents won't even show it to kids. If kids see what happens they wouldn't want to eat meat.

- The companies that make food with animal products made a lot of money by selling these products to people but they hide that they hurt and kill animals. Many people don't know the truth.

- Lots of people are learning every day that eating or using anything that comes from an animal hurts and kills them, pollutes the land and isn't good for our bodies but not ALL people know yet, NOT EVEN TEACHERS! Sometimes there is only one kid that knows in the entire class or grade. Sometimes there is nobody in a class that knows!

- Many people don't know what else to eat or don't have a choice of what they eat. Kids are not usually in charge of making their own food and nobody should ever have to starve. Some parents make their kids to eat things they don't want to eat and we should not make the kids feel bad.

- Most people are kind and don't want to hurt animals, especially not kids, but kids may have to wait until they become an adult to buy and make their own vegan food, for now, they may need to eat what their parents give them.

- Stress how it is SO good that WE don't have to eat animals!

- Give permission for your child to refuse to write, draw, make, or talk about anything that is cruel to animals because it is against their beliefs. 

- Make friends with anyone that is interested in not eating animals and try to answer questions as best you can. We've learned a lot so we can help other people. Parents can promise to help too.

- "Be the change you want to see" (Mahatma Ghandi) - Just being yourself, the healthy, kind vegan kid will make others want to follow.

I hope this helps other vegan parents and kids navigate school and please give your best tips, thoughts, and comments below.

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