Play with your food?

Mom always said, “Don’t play with your food!”

Growing up, we’ve been taught all of the reasons not to play with our food. Our hands are dirty and it’s impolite at the dinner table, but we never hear reasons why we should play with our food! When kids play with their food they are examining it. They can feel if the food is hard or squishy, if it smells sweet or sour, and they can even hear it crunch. Playing with food helps get children excited about trying new foods.

It is important however to also keep in mind that playing with food can promote playing rather than eating. So how do we find an equal balance of exploration and excitement without telling children that dinnertime is playtime?

Here are some great tips to get kids involved!

Distinguish the difference between preparing food and eating.

  •  Preparation time is playtime! Preparing a meal is the perfect time for children to work hands on with mom and dad. This is a great opportunity to show your child fun things like the fuzz on a kiwi or the snap of sugar snap peas!
  •  After preparation time the fun can continue but the fun should take on a new tone. Rather than fun with food turn the fun to conversation or eating games. Games can include counting how many colors are on the table. Conversation can be something as simple as asking your child what they did at recess or who they sat next to at snack time.

Create child appropriate jobs to do in the kitchen!

  • This is another opportunity to get your child involved and excited to taste something because they helped in the preparation!
  • Here are some ways your child can help out:
  1. Tear lettuce
  2. Break apart snap peas and broccoli
  3. Setting the table
  4. Rinse off veggies

Make a dinner schedule together as a family!

  • Give your child one list of meal options and one list of fruits of veggies. Plan out your Sunday through Saturday dinners using the lists you’ve planned together.
  • This will help your child feel involved excited about dinner all week! It will also be a huge help to parents when the work schedule gets busy planning meals becomes time consuming. It will also help parents plan meals before they go grocery shopping!

 Written by Catherine Malizia

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