Play with Your Food

Like most parents, I've been known to tell my kids, "Don't play with your food!" Although my effort is to help them establish some social graces at the table, I can't help but notice the disappointment in their eyes whenever I say it. Plus, some studies show that playing with food can actually encourage kids to be more adventurous eaters and broaden their horizons. So, I decided to try making snack time … playtime!

We started with drinks. I gave each of my kids a clear cup with water, straws and bottles of food coloring. I told them to use as much food coloring as they wanted and they could stir it in however they liked. They had more fun than I could've imagined! They blew bubbles to mix their colors. They gave each food coloring a characteristic - such as courage, strength and love - and instead of just making colored water, they made potions. Their creativity ran wild! I'm not sure how much water they actually drank.

Next, we played "name that seasoning." I blindfolded each of the kids, then had them smell some seasonings to see if they could guess the ingredients. I used:

As they guessed what was in each jar, I also asked them which one they wanted in their dinner tonight. They had a hard time deciding between Garlic Garlic Seasoning and Mom's Favorite Taco Seasoning. Fortunately, I have three kids, so the tie was broken and Mom's Favorite Taco Seasoning won. Taco Pizza for dinner!

Finally, I put out some food and encouraged them to play. I gave them slices of Bountiful Beer Bread, carrot sticks, cucumbers and apple slices. They each had a plate and access to cookie cutters. Their job was to create an artistic masterpiece on their plate. They used the cookie cutters to make shapes with the Bountiful Beer Bread. My daughter made a smiley face with cucumber eyes and a carrot stick mouth. My son recreated a battle scene from a movie on his plate. My other son went for a hodge-podge.

To finish off our playtime, they each got a Truffle Fudge Brownie, which they, of course, cut into a fun shape with the cookie cutters.

I'm not sure this experience actually expanded my kids' eating horizons. But I know for sure that we laughed and had fun. As we reflect on the 9/11 tragedy we faced 16 years ago, precious time with family becomes even more important. Take the opportunity to make the simple act of eating a snack and turn it into family fun time.


Tips & Hints:

  • Put down a table cloth and have plenty of washcloths and towels handy before you start playing.
  • Introduce new foods to your kids while playing. They are more likely to try new things in the relaxed environment.
  • Involve your kids in choosing the foods you play with. They may suggest things you never thought of.

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