Raising Vegan Children: The “Pretend You’re Not Vegan” Game

May 10th, 2015 - filed under: The Farm » Family

Hey guys! Just a quick one today, but I’m super excited to share this short video we made. It actually came about quite unexpectedly, on a recent evening while we were eating dinner outside by the fire pit. I happened to be playing around with the video camera, and was able to capture our conversation. Lucky accident!

We were playing a game we sometimes play – the “Pretend You’re Not Vegan” game.

The “Pretend You’re Not Vegan” game is a great way for vegan children to experience what it feels like to talk about veganism with non-vegans. Essentially, you just assume the role of a curious omnivore, and the child practices answering your questions. It’s a safe way for vegan children to work through these difficult conversations, without the pressure of being on the spot in a real-life situation.

This game can also be a great way for children to explore their own feelings about veganism, but I really think the value is that it empowers vegan children by giving them the language and the confidence they’ll need in order to navigate the complicated and deeply personal conversations that they’re certain to encounter as they move through a non-vegan world.

As you assume the role of the omnivore, try to imagine the kinds of questions your child might be asked (which will probably depend on their age). Anything from “But what do you even eat then?” to “But where do you get your protein?” or even as straightforward as “What is a vegan?

And that’s it! It’s just a simple, role-playing, conversational game. And it can be as silly or as serious as you (or your child) want it to be.


To all you vegan parents out there – do you play something similar to the “Pretend You’re Not Vegan” game?

Or do you have any other games that you play which incorporate veganism?

Or if not a game, how do you help your children to feel confident and capable when talking about their lifestyle?

Please share in the comments below – I know that we can all provide a wealth of ideas and inspiration for one another!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • Elizabeth

    Soooooooo adorable! And I love that he’s hugging Jeremy throughout the whole thing!

  • Danielle Gardner

    This is such an adorable and wonderful video! I really am consistently inspired by your approach to veganism and engaing Waits about these challenging topics. You’ve got one smart kid there (as I’m sure you know)!

    I loved this video and the last one you did with EcoVeganGal about raising Waits vegan and helping him to understand and socialize in a non-vegan world. I wish that there were more videos like these about vegan kids out there. I found them heart warming and motivational because I too hope to one day raise a vegan kid.

    As an aside, I just want to say that I’ve loved your blog for years though I don’t think I’ve ever commented. I found you about 5 years ago (pre-vegan) when I was still researching and on the fence about going vegan myself. I’m so happy and fortunate to have had your many blog posts along the way to aid, inspire, and inform me (2 years vegan now), so a big thank you for that!


  • Sonja

    Thanks so much for the video! It is so interesting to see how you raise Waits to be such a compasionate little person. The “pretend you’re not vegan”-game is a great idea. Him hugging Jeremy the whole time is sooo cute!

  • http://www.cadryskitchen.com/ Cadry

    Oh, my god. Waits is so cute. I can’t stand it. Now I want to be one of the lucky pretend animals that he hugs!

    This is such a great idea, and something I’ve never heard anyone else suggest. It’s hard for adults even to express their opinions with sensitive and sometimes touchy topics with grace. Well done on giving Waits a safe place to explore those concepts.

  • Sara MM

    I love this idea. We talk about why we are vegan a lot to our 5 year old but we don’t do enough to have her explain it in her words or talk about her feelings on the topic. I have written down your sample questions to kick this off tonight at dinner. Thank you for sharing this.

  • VeegMama

    This is genius! Thank you for sharing – very insightful and helpful (works for adults too!)

  • Candace

    Thanks for sharing this! Waits is adorable! :) this is such a good idea and I will definitely play it with my son when he’s older. I actually feel it’s a good game for adults to play too.

  • Kate

    You and your amazing son are inspiring.

  • Rebecca Carnes

    Cutest video ever! Love this idea! Since Phoenyx is just starting to understand what vegan is we read a lot of books and make vegan foods together. If the opportunity arises we have little conversations with him about being vegan & keep it as simple as possible so he can understand:)

  • vegyogini

    Such an awesome video! I love his spirit and energy (and it’s so sweet how much he loves Jeremy)!

  • Kendra

    AWESOME video!!! Waits is so cute and great to see a 5 year old with such enthusiasm for being vegan!

  • Sarah

    My one concern about raising my future child/children as vegan is that I never want them to feel as though it was forced on them. I found veganism myself, at a very early age (I chose to stop eating meat aged 6, stopped wearing leather shoes at 9, and went vegan aged 13- so precocious!) but it was always entirely my own decision, and I’ve been worried that if my future children didn’t make the choice for themselves, they wouldn’t really connect to veganism in the same way. But honestly, this video has completely eliminated any anxiety I had around this issue. It’s so obvious that Waits, even at such a young age, is forming his own opinions and values around veganism, and that it already means something unique and powerful to him. He’s clearly embracing veganism, and his compassion shines through. Apologies for the essay, but this topic has always been a bit of a concern for me, and I wanted to thank you for putting my mind at ease!

  • Sara MM

    Hi Sarah, one thing that is awesome about kids is their natural love of animals. Parents and society actually turn a lot of that natural love off and create borders for their kids about which animals to love and which ones to not connect to (because of food). One time when my daughter was only 1 1/2 years old I turned a page in a book I was looking at and she saw a drawing of a chicken in a cage. I didn’t say anything and she instantly went “awww that sad”. We get the pleasure of fostering that love :)

  • Sarah

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you for your insightful comment. I definitely agree that kids generally have a natural love of animals; it was the reason I stopped eating meat at such a young age, because it didn’t make sense to my six-year-old brain to love animals so much, and then eat them.

    As much as I hate to admit it, I think that my anxiety around this issue is at least partly informed by other people’s attitudes towards raising vegan children- my ex’s mum used to tell me all the time that it would be wrong to raise my kids as vegans. My instinct is that I would want them to have the best possible start in life, which for me, means raising them as vegans, but there’s a lot of prejudice to overcome in my immediate circle. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this topic in such a supportive and knowledgeable community, because it’s something that has caused me a fair amount of worry!

    Thank you again for sharing your story; your daughter sounds wonderfully compassionate :)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I know Elizabeth, that just slays me that he’s hanging to Jeremy nonstop. Eeee! They’re so sweet together. ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you so much Danielle! I *love* hearing from long-time readers, it’s so cool to connect with people who have been a part of this for so long. So thanks so much for saying hi!

    And of course, oh my goodness, YAY congrats on going vegan! 2 years strong, that’s so fantastic! ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Sonja! And yeah, him and Jeremy just melt me. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you Cadry!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh I love hearing this Sara! So – how’d it go for her practicing with the questions? Do you think it helped her?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Definitely works for adults too! As long as they’re willing to play. ;-)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Candace, I’m so happy to share. Have fun playing it with your little guy in a few years!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Kate!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Becca, that sounds pretty much like what we do too – lots of reading and kitchen exploring, and of course lots and lots of age-appropriate conversations!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I know right?! Their relationship makes me so, so happy. I love them in this video!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Kendra!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Sarah,

    I understand so much of what you are saying here. I have similar concerns, though I think I’ve found a way to reconcile my worries. I have a VERY rebellious child (shocking considering his parents, I know) and I also know that any child raised under strict rules and regulations will likely reject their constraints as soon as they are given the opportunity. That’s just human nature, I think. So I definitely understand the concern of not wanting the child to feel like veganism is “forced” on them.

    That said, it’s kind of a double standard that people (including ourselves) hold vegans up to. Because really, what is feeding a child meat, but “forcing your omnivorism” on them? It’s just the same, except that omnivory is seen as the standard and the “norm”, so nobody questions it.

    But I also reject the idea that parents shouldn’t “force their beliefs” onto their children. I think “force” is a harsh and charged word, but setting that aside – isn’t that like, the literal definition of parenting? To *teach* our children our values, and to *instill* in them the things that we feel are important?

    Is it “forcing our will on our children” to require them to go to bed at night? Or to prevent them for eating ice cream for dinner? Or to forbid them from smoking or drinking as children? Or to require them to go to school/homeschool/have some sort of education instead of what hey would choose on their own, aka watching TV all day every day?

    I feel like there is an unfair double standard aimed at vegan parents, like we are doing something extreme or out of the ordinary when in fact — we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing as parents! We are raising our children with the ethical and practical ideals by which we live. Children don’t get carte blanche to make all the decisions about governing their own lives. *That’s what parents are FOR*

    And as to the first part of your question — the child’s own sense of being forced and then of wanting to rebel, I think the solution is simply not to force. Waits and I have a conversation-based parent-child relationship, which mean we have lots and lots and lots (and LOTS) of long and complicated conversations about pretty much everything. It’s exhausting, if I’m being honest, but I truly believe that it’s so so valuable for him and his own sense of identity, autonomy, and understanding the way he relates to the world.

    So when we talk about veganism, I straight up tell him “It’s my job as your mommy to protect you and guide you, which is why I’m going to help you stay vegan while you’re young. But once you’re a bigger kid, you’ll begin to make these decisions for yourself, and you’ll be able to choose whether you want to remain vegan or not. That decision will be yours, but not until you’re old enough to completely understand the implications of the decision.”

    We talk about this a lot and he understands it. I think it’s a great approach – much more realistic, I think.

    But who knows, what works for one family may not work for another. This one works for us! Hope that helps? Maybe?


  • Sarah

    I think I may just print out handy pamphlet-sized versions of this comment to hand out to anyone who ever asks me why I’d consider raising my children vegan! As I said to Sara, I think my anxiety around this issue is informed by the very negative reactions I’ve had from people when the topic has been raised in the past; when my ex and I were talking about kids, his family were adamant that it would be “wrong” for me to feed them a vegan diet, and even my own family have concerns, despite knowing that I had chosen a vegan diet for myself quite early in life, and (hopefully!) turned out fine. Eventually that kind of noise starts to penetrate your brain, and make you wonder whether you are doing something wrong or weird by making a particular decision.

    As I said in my earlier comment, watching your video has helped me to see the way that children connect with veganism in their own way, even if it is introduced into their lives by someone else, and it’s helped to ease a lot of my anxiety around the subject, so thank you!

  • http://www.dayattheshore.blogspot.com Mrs. D.

    I am loving this idea! Also, I have really enjoyed all the “raising a kid vegan” type posts lately (my first is due any day now). The conversational approach you take with Waits is such a great idea. Thanks for sharing… and Waits is so adorable!

  • Ravyn

    “I’ve pretended I’ve hugged every animal in the world!” — Absolutely precious!!! His little voice is adorable. This is amazing. Thank you for sharing. Our little one is just 16 months, but we will need to talk with her about our lifestyle sooner than later. This is a great resource.

  • Ravyn

    God goddess!!! This comment was pure perfection! Thank you for saying this so eloquently … My thoughts exactly, but you articulated it into such a thoughtful response.

  • veronika

    This is really great, what an awesome idea.
    We haven’t really talked about these things much in our family yet, but I have wondered a lot about bringing it up once my 2.5 y.o. starts to ask. I like Waits’s reasons and arguments, he is so sincere. We haven’t talked much about animals, but we spend a lot of time outdoors, and I’ve been thinking that protection of nature and effects of factory farming on deforestation and water resources are probably going to be some of the top examples with our little skier. Just scheming for now, though :)
    We are not actually vegan (the plate is, mostly, but we like our wool sweaters and stuff), but people ask all the time and they want labels. I stopped eating meat 14 years ago, and feel like I have had to explain myself so many times, especially once I cut out eggs and dairy, and was expecting a child… (the horror!)
    One thing I have found most useful, esp since I often don’t feel like engaging or explaining, is just to say “personal preference”. I have my reasons for eating and living the way I do, some more selfish than others, and generally try to be mindful of not appearing too judgmental. It’s been a good phrase to add to my arsenal, and I’ll arm my kid with it when the time comes.

  • Lizzil

    Thank you for this! I often find myself just ignoring people’s rude comments about my veganism or giving really short answers to questions about why I’m vegan. It’s a scary conversation to have. Some people get so defensive when they hear someone’s choices are different than theirs….( have no interest in that BS. BUT, this video has taught me some wonderful ways to explain my veganism in a real and simple way. Even though I’m 32, this is a good place for me to start. Thank you, Waits!

  • Melanie

    What a great idea! I will absolutely play this game with my older kids (9 and 6 years old) The fun thing is that kids talking to other kids tend to be much less judgmental than adults. Their questions are not thinly veiled criticism or aggressive comments, just pure curiosity! My 9 yearly old has educated her ballet classmates on veganism ( for example: yes, I can eat cake. My mom makes it without milk or eggs. Or, yes, I still grow well without having to eat meat. No, I don’t want to eat bacon, I like pigs. Stuff like that) I find children’s questions so much easier to navigate than those from adults.
    What a wonderful way to prepare children for conversation they will no doubt have when they are out in the world! Also, my goodness what an adorable kid you have :)

  • Melanie

    So true, I completely agree. Two of my three kids are old enough to have their own opinions about food and also have moments when I am not with them and they could “sneak in” some animal products (birthday parties, grandma’s house) and they never do. It think it’s because it is not forbidden. They don’t want any. I told them my reasons for raising them vegan and they understand and share the same values, much like Waits in the video. It’s a beautiful thing!

  • Sara MM

    Hi Sayward, well I picked a bad moment to try it out. After school with a moody 5 year old. I asked “What does vegan mean?” to which she responded “Mom, I ALREADY know!” haha She wasn’t totally getting the idea of the game and didn’t feel like dealing with mom asking her questions at that moment. Last night at random I did ask her if you’re vegan where do you get your protein from and she gave some really great answers. I think for her it might work best to ask randomly.

  • Sarah Chase

    “I pretend I’ve hugged every animal in the world” —too sweet!!! <3

    Our son is 3. I will definitely give this game a try with him! What a great idea!

  • Anne

    so sweet :)))

  • Kiki

    I love your blog! Just found it so I’ll spend the next few evenings reading. I’m vegan since 5 months now and my 7 year old daughter told me yesterday that she wants to be vegan too. So we talked about the basics first and this game really helped her to practise and show me what she already knows and what needs further explanation. Great idea, thanks so much.

  • Jo S.

    Oh my god, this is adorable!!!!! I can’t wait until my little girl is old enough to play. So compassionate and convincing! Move over PETA, Waits has it under control!

  • Sheridan Posey

    First of all, it was truly awesome to meet you at VVC! We had such a blast! So, I’m finally commenting, on this post in particular, because I just had to share this adorable video with Drew. We both got a little equally giddy and teary-eyed watching it and talking about a new generation of compassionately minded youth and what that will look like, feel like, etc. for our world. We don’t have children yet, but it’s something we talk about for sure, and your videos and stories of Waits and his enthusiasm for being an “animal rescuer” are just the absolute best. Thanks for all you do, for sharing your story with us. You were one of the first vegan voices I was drawn to follow online. I know we only recently met in person, but you, your blog, and your family are and have been a huge inspiration for me! ❤️

  • Liz

    Oh My God, I CAN’T with the cuteness that is your child. :D

  • vicgarcia4

    This is really heartwarming :)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Sheridan! It was SO great to meet you and connect at VVC – and I can’t believe how quickly time is flying being back. But I just wanted to say thank you for this sweet comment, and I love knowing that you guys are thinking about making some weegans of your own some day. =)

    Please stay in touch, and especially if/when you do decide to take that next step! ♥