Your mom probably told you not to play with your food. But play is the very thing that may get your own kids involved in healthy eating. Here are a few ways to make fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods fun.
Even a trip to the grocery store can be an opportunity for play. Ask young children to help find fruits and vegetables that start with the first letter of their name. You may find that Abigail starts liking apples and that Ben suddenly starts eating bananas. Once you get home from the store, let children sort the foods by color or texture.
Make it a costume party
Dress up familiar food with fancy packaging. Make a Dino Dessert by transforming a slice of watermelon into a stegosaurus with the help of some spike-shaped strawberry halves. Use vegetables cut in different shapes to make a Funny Face Pizza with lots of personality. Even ordinary sandwiches can become robots, trains, hearts, or other favorite shapes when you shape them with cookie cutters.
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but the same can’t be said about kids’ foods. Give each thing you serve a funny name and watch it disappear. Kids who turn up their noses at melons may be won over by fruit skewers if you call them Rainbow Ribbons. Some children like funny names, others prefer gross names. Use your child’s own interests as your guide in naming your concoctions. Serve wagon wheel pasta to little ones who love transportation, and princess pillows (a.k.a. ravioli) to those who love to play with dolls.
Decorate the table
Atmosphere is everything, but your kids probably aren’t looking for candlelit tables and fine china. Instead make their food more attractive by using colored plates, crazy straws, funny placemats, and party favors.
Try snack art
Why not turn an art project into a snack project? Start with clean hands and suggest to your budding chefs that they create cars, people, monsters, or sea creatures. Offer some of these materials and let kids get creative:
- Foundation: celery or carrot sticks, crackers, banana slices, pineapple slices, orange sections, grapes, tortillas, cheese cubes
- Glue: peanut butter, jam, cream cheese, ranch dressing, yogurt
- Decorations: raisins, seeds, nuts, cherry tomatoes, shredded coconut, berries
Eat your words
Look to your child’s favorite books to inspire new menus. Otherwise picky fans of Dr. Seuss may devour a meal of green eggs (scrambled eggs mixed with spinach) and ham. Seek out other titles, such as How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World , Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, or Growing Vegetable Soup, that inspire great recipes.
Sing for your supper
If your child loves music, listen to some Sesame Street healthy snack songs, like the “Mango Tango” and “I Love Fruit.” You can make up your own lyrics to celebrate the silly joys of whatever is on the menu that night.