10 fun things to do with food

We were always told not to play with our food…. but there are so many ways for kids to have fun with food, which can also be educational, and research has shown that turning food into play could also be a good way of combating fussy eating.

gingerbread man isolated on whiteWe’ve asked around some wise “old” parents we know and have put together a top ten list of fun things you can do with your little ones and food. They’re entertaining, some a little bit messy and shouldn’t break the bank. Some of these may also get your child eating things they would previously turn their nose up at.

  1. Homemade Pizza
    Pizza’s are generally seen as unhealthy, but actually if you make your own with good fresh ingredients it can be a tasty meal and a way of getting veggies into your kids. The leftovers are also great for snacks and lunch boxes. And they really are good fun to make, from mixing the dough to adding the toppings to make funny faces or pictures. See our simple pizza recipe here.
  2. Pasta pictures
    Quite an old fashioned craft idea but good fun, and if you use pulses as well as pasta, you can teach your kids about the different foods and then show them how the dried pasta, beans or pulses can become a healthy meal too. Pasta comes in so many different shapes that it could make a great pictures on its own, but adding in dried lentils, beans and rice will add some colour. Paper plates are great bases for these works of art and you’ll need lots of PVA glue! In addition to pictures, pasta like penne can also be made into jewelery by threading string through and painting with poster paint and PVA glue mix.
  3. Vegetable shape printing
    This is really entertaining and if rather messy! You may remember doing this when you were younger. You basically cut hard vegetables (root veggies are best, particularly potatoes) into different shapes then use them for printing with finger or poster paints. Some veg lend themselves to great natural patterns. If you have any cauliflower of broccoli which is getting a little yellow and soft, you can use some different sized florets as stamps as well.
  4. Silly bread baking
    Bread-baking with your children is good fun and really satisfying, but you can turn it into more of a craft activity by making “silly bread”. You can use a basic bread recipe (like the one we have on here) or a more complicated one, depending on how confident you are with cooking. Once you’ve made the dough, and let it rise, you can hand it over for some artistic moulding, a bit like playdough but you can actually bake and eat what you make. It could be bread people, other types of food (sausages seems to be a fave…) or just silly shapes. You can use dried fruit, seeds or even herbs like rosemary to decorate. Then bake and eat with some wholesome homemade soup.
  5. Egg decorating
    This is probably most appropriate for Easter, but if you have some eggs that are a bit past their best, instead of throwing them out, you could turn them into some art. And if you blow out the egg bit leaving the shell, even if it’s christmas time, they’ll last till Easter! This is a good site that describes how to decorate eggs the natural way http://www.selfsufficientish.com/easter.htm. And this site goes into a lot more detail, but if you like the idea of egg decorating with your kids that much, it might work for you! http://www.kidsturncentral.com/holidays/easter/easteggs2.htm
  6. Ginger bread people/animals
    Kids really love to cook, and it can teach them some key skills. Making gingerbread people and animals (or other shapes) is easy and more creative then perhaps just decorating fairy cakes. You can add hair and clothes and anatomy (within reason at this point!), make a whole family, with pets. Use raisins, seeds, and other dried fruit pre-cooking and different coloured icing and maybe even melted chocolate after cooking. Here’s a basic gingerbread recipe
  7. Fun food
    There are a number of creative and innovative mums out there who create masterpieces with basic food. One way to combat fussy eating is to make food look fun and have character. You can either do it yourself before placing the plate or bowl in front of you reticent little one, or create a wonderful edible picture together. We love this very basic but fun eggy toast idea. Take a piece of bread and cut out a shape in the middle, heart, star, animal. Toast the shape you’ve taken out and lightly fry one side of the piece of bread (with the hole). Turn it over in the frying pan and crack an egg into the hole. Wait for the egg to cook through and the toast to be toasted and serve up with the shape soldier. And if you’re more adventurous, have a look at these websites: http://littlenummies.net/ And for v. hungry caterpillar lovers http://www.gourmetmomonthego.com/2010/05/very-hungry-caterpillar-snack.html http://www.littlefoodjunction.blogspot.com/
  8. Cress heads
    We all remember growing cress on bits of cotton wool in egg cups when we were young, and it may seem not much now but actually kids still love it and it’s a great introduction to teaching them about growing food. You just need some empty egg shells, felt tips, cotton wool and cress seeds. And once the cress has grown, you can give the heads a haircut, and eat the hair! Decorate the eggs with faces, dampen the cotton wool and put inside the eggs, sprinkle the seeds on top, and leave on a windowsill. Keep the wool damp and watch the hair grow.
  9. Grow it
    This isn’t exactly instant food fun, but it IS fun to watch the food grow and then be able to eat it. And as most things you grow are really healthy, it’s will help with developing healthy eating habits as well. Check out this website http://www.edibleplaygrounds.co.uk which teaches you how to sow and grow with children. It’s also got more ideas for fun with food, season by season.
  10. Pick it
    A seasonal activity perhaps, but one that get’s the children outside, learning about food, getting exercise and having fun. It’s a really good family day out. There are farms all over the place which offer “pick your own”.  Try http://www.pickyourown.info to find your closest one.

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