Don’t play with your food!
I fully understand why we say this to our kids. I am certain Rach plays with her food as an alternative to actual eating. When she isn’t hungry or doesn’t like what I’ve put in front her, food becomes a plaything to be squished, thrown or fed to the cat. She is the master of creating wasteful mess.
Playing with food is actually super important for little people’s development into big people. Sometimes we forget as grown-ups that kids often do things that they are inherently meant to do, like make a mess and play with their food. But something they need to learn to do is how to be little citizens, which includes table manners and appropriate food behaviour.
I hate fighting with Rach about food. Our solution? We’ve started food creations! This is really just an invitation to play with food.The kitchen becomes the play room and our toys are food we will actually eat. Here are some of our ideas that we’ve tested on our kids.
1. Create with food
We put some lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cucumber on the table and ask the kids to make something – a face, a flower, a car, anything! The only rule: you’ve got to eat what you create. We try to throw something new into the mix – maybe a gherkin or olive – so she can see mom and dad including it in their creations and consider trying it.
2. Blind food games
One of our favourite food games to play in the kitchen is blindfolded food tasting. We try to include food they love (for ours, this means apples, cucumber, and chocolate), as well as different textures (like soft pasta, crunchy biscuit, slippery jelly). The game is simple: taste and guess. When we did this with the kids for the first time, they really battled to keep their blindfolds on due to pure excitement. Eventually we gave in and did it with closed eyes (there was LOTS of sneaky peaking) but the fun of guessing through smell and taste remained.
After we played this game, the smell of the herbs and lemon peel inspired Miiks to experiment with lemonade! He made two different lemonades and we all tasted and chose our favourites… The basil and lemon combo was surprisingly delicious.
We also sometimes play blindfolded food smelling. We invite the kids to take a sniff and guess what food it is: mint and other herbs, cinnamon and spices, and citrus peels are so smelly! This works best if you make some smell bottles like this.
3. Food together
I love when anyone helps me prepare meals and my favourite sous chef is definitely my daughter. The crinkle cutter presto that we sent in January’s boxes has meant that Rach can help with cutting, no knife required! Carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, fruit – the crinkle cutter does it all! I encourage her to nibble as we prepare.
4. Non-food food creations
Food-related pretend play is another great way to play with food. Most parents love this as they don’t have to get too messy. There are tons of options to buy or you can Do It Yourself (see our Pinterest board!)
5. Have fun with food!
The new year may bring a focus on nutrition and healthy eating habits, but this is not something kids care to focus on! Let’s make enjoying food the focus in 2017. Let’s become families of food lovers, who cook together and enjoy mealtimes together. Healthy eating habits will become a happy byproduct if we approach food with fun.