If the mere mention of sushi sends your kids swimming the other direction before you can say “Go Fish,” don’t fret! Sushi doesn’t have to be a raw affair. The good news is that Japanese restaurants offer many different choices for introducing your little one to this delicious food. Here are five tips and a few family-friendly restaurants that just might convince your little sushi newbie to dive in and take that first bite.

Sushi dinnerPhoto credit: Creative Commons

1. Don’t Rush It
Start your sushi journey slowly and begin with a safe appetizer. Gyoza, similar to potstickers, is especially popular.  Edamame beans are fun to pop out of the pod (and healthy), which will keep the kids entertained and busy. These also generally arrive instantaneously, which is a bonus if you’ve got a squirmy kiddo. Miso soup, which contains tofu and seaweed is better for slightly more adventurous eaters, but is also a good choice for a starting appetizer.

Sushi appetizerPhoto credit: Marissa Mullen

2. Start with Cooked Sushi
Take the raw fish (sashimi) off the table for now and begin with the cooked rolls. If there’s a fish that your kiddo already enjoys, like salmon or tuna, see if there’s a sushi roll with these kinds of fish. California rolls, made with avocado, cucumber and cooked imitation crab, are the perfect starter roll. Shrimp lovers will rejoice with a shrimp tempura roll – these are deep fried and sure to be a hit with the kids. Don’t overlook the eel rolls either. These are always cooked and served with a tasty sweet and savory barbecue sauce. Who needs ribs when you’ve got barbecue eel?

California RollPhoto credit: Bethany J. on Yelp

3. Go Veg
If your kiddo is still turned off by all the fish options, go vegetarian. Many Japanese restaurants offer veggie options with cucumber, pickles, avocado, carrots, and more. Sushi rolls with sweet egg is another great alternative.

4. Watch the Chef
Opt to sit at the sushi counter instead of a table and watch the sushi chef in action! Kids will get a kick out of watching their meal being prepared before their eyes, and may be more prone to actually eat it. The chef may be willing to talk to little ones and answer some of their questions too, making their sushi experience educational as well as tasty.

5. Choose a Kid Friendly Restaurant
The good news is that San Diego has plenty of kid friendly places to get sushi. Look for restaurants that provide high chairs, and also plastic chopstick helpers if your kids want to try using chopsticks. If you’re unsure, call your local sushi joint and ask how they accommodate children.

Domo Sushi
This Santee restaurant is baby and kid friendly, with excellent customer service and prices. They can even substitute soy paper for seaweed in the sushi rolls, if your kiddo can’t handle the fishy taste of the seaweed. Keep in mind that the restaurant is small and does tend to get busy during dinner hours, so you may want to call ahead and reserve a table.

Insider’s Tip: Ask for some chopstick cheaters for the kids to join in on the fun.

9625 Mission Gorge Rd
Santee, Ca.
(619) 596-2882
Online: domosushisd.com

Poway Sushi Lounge
We love the relaxed, casual atmosphere and the special menus just for kids. Choices such as chicken teriyaki and noodles are great alternatives if your picky eaters aren’t quite ready to brave the sushi. There’s an impressive list of gluten-free items for those with special dietary needs. This restaurant has yummy desserts too – try the tempura ice cream and pound cake.

Insider’s Tip: Check in on Foursquare and receive a free order of garlic edamame.

13132 Poway Rd.
Poway, Ca
(858) 748-0070
Online: powaysushilounge.com

Baby sushiPhoto credit: Marissa Mullen

Osaka Japanese Food & Sushi
Located in Mission Gorge, this restaurant has been serving up consistently satisfying sushi for years. It’s a great spot for a fast, casual meal. The food is quite inexpensive, making it a good choice for first time sushi eaters to try a few different items.

Insider’s Tip: The bento boxes are great meals for little ones with items such as rice, chicken, beef or even tempura vegetables for kids who aren’t fond of meat or seafood.

4242 Camino Del Rio N Ste 26
San Diego, Ca
(619) 283-6844
Online: yelp.com/biz/osaka-japanese-food-and-sushi-san-diego

Do your kids love sushi? Give your best tips for introducing kids to this delicious food!

– Marissa Mullen