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I’m sure you’ve heard before that letting your kids play with their food can be really beneficial. But… weren’t you told as a kid NOT to play with your food and to just eat?! And what is acceptable play? How can playing with food actually help kids to eat more, and what activities should they do? Definitely check out this post if you haven’t already, and then you can build on those ideas below. In these 12 fun ways to play with your food, you’ll walk away with some concrete activities you can use to engage your kid in food play so you can increase the number of foods they’ll accept.
I love this activity for soups and stews. Serve some of the ingredients separated out and some combined as the full dish. Let your kid use a fork, spoon or tongs to separate out the ingredients. Definitely include a small plate for them to put those ingredients on. This will give them a clear place to put the things they don’t want and space to engage their sense of curiosity before they’re ready to eat. Some comments that could be helpful – What do you see in the bowl that starts with Bbbb? What shapes do you see? Are any of these things crunchy?
How tall can you stack the food? What shapes or foods stack better? Can you combine soft and crunchy things for a fun structure? This building activity encourages your kid to play with textures or smells they are definitely not ready to eat. It gives them something practical to do, and it’s like a fun challenge!!
Did you ever do this as a kid?? Slice the potato and then use a cookie cutter to make a fun shape in the middle. Then the potato becomes the stamp with a built in handle! Potato stamping is fantastic for those kids who like French fries but not other forms or potatoes, or for any picky eater that loves to make art projects!!
Have produce that probably isn’t going to get eaten, or extras on hand? Whip out the extra googly eyes or craft supplies and make fun faces on the food! Practice emotional vocabulary by drawing different faces. This is a happy face, the onion looks a little sad – tell me about that.
Have you kid flex their creativity muscle by using whatever food items you can grab and challenge them to make a person or an animal. Having some toothpicks and something sticky like peanut butter or mashed potatoes near by to help things stick together and keep their shape.
There are countless ideas online for beautiful images you can create, but it doesn’t have to be perfect! I love to have the whole family get involved and each create a unique plate based on one theme using similar ingredients. It can be such a fantastic conversation starter and can really infuse an attitude of joy and fun around the table.
Cupcakes in waffle cones? Peanut butter jelly on crackers? What about using tongs or toothpicks instead of a fork?All of those are fun options to make us think creatively and really embrace change in a way that is more fun and approachable.
Whether you have your kid count out items for serving, or you have them match with numerical symbols like in the image above, including numbers in your food play can support your child’s classroom learning in a low stress way.
Grouping and sorting foods is another way to practice our child’s classroom lessons at home. Ways you can group or size: color, shape, size, temperature, etc. This is especially fun when other family members are involved – sort the largest on your plate and then see who at the table has the largest, etc.
Whip up a box mix or buy some plain cookies and some frosting, add some sprinkles and let your kids dive in. I love to do this as a special dessert some days. Block it out as a fun family activity and just embrace it! Obviously when the holidays come around there are lots more opportunities for this, but I encourage you to do it a bit more often. It will make the mess come holiday time a bit less because your kids will have had more practice!
I let my kids cut things where the shape (or consistency) doesn’t really matter. One fantastic example is the fruits and or veggies they eat for snacks. Encourage them to use their three finger grip which will strengthen hand muscles, and if you’ve ever seen a kid use a knife to cut foods you’ll know what a great sense of pride this gives them so I definitely count it as a form of food play.
Have a kiddo who isn’t quite ready to practice cutting with a knife, let them wash some produce. I love using a big colander that the kids can pour the food into and then let the water run over it. This is a particular favorite for kids who love to play with water!
Hope you loved these 12 fun ways to play with your food. Which one do you think you will try with your kids first?