Let your kids 'play' with their food! (sort-of)

Say what?!  Let them create something, and maybe they'll be more likely to eat it!  The options are aplenty: from the veggie boys and girls I made with some pre-schoolers this morning, to giving my 6 year old the chance to knead bread dough after school the other day.  

How does this work? Well, this morning I brought 15 different vegetables to a group of 15 pre-schoolers that I'm teaching once a week.  Some of the parents told me that their kids DO NOT LIKE vegetables, and they were hopeful that my class would encourage them to try new things.  I was feeling a bit of pressure (in a good way).  Rather than bring a bunch of vegetables and ask the kids to try them right off the bat, I thought I might have better success by letting them first play with their food.

Each kiddo got a bag with 9 different veggies: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, celery, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, and spinach. They were encouraged to use the different veggies to build some stick people or shapes on their plates. The more unique veggies used, the better.  I made a few examples to get them started. Check out their creations in the photos below! Next they were encouraged to EAT!  

Guess what?!  It worked!  They tried all sorts of new things.  Do you know what's music to my ears? "Wow! I like it!" Afterwords, while they were in a trying mood, I asked if anyone wanted to try any more new veggies. Like roasted butternut squash, beets, asparagus, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  I had some takers.  And some kids asked for seconds (and thirds!). Success!

I used to think there was a negative connotation to playing with food.  And I still do somewhat, like if a child is mushing and mangling food only to get a rise out of their friends and throw it out.  I'm that mom who has a hard time watching kids stuff their face in a cupcake at a birthday party, only to make a mess and walk away from the table 2 minutes later.  If it's a party I'm hosting, a lot of love went into making that cupcake and I hate seeing it wasted. 

But I'm all for constructively playing with food.  And that's pretty much what my 6 year old thought she was doing when helping me knead bread dough.  For her, it was fun to play with the dough, and there was no expectation that she was going to have to follow-through and knead effectively for several straight minutes. (See the fun video below!)  She gave it a shot and then played in the extra flour pile and nibbled on the bits of dough that I missed until I was finished.  And a couple hours later, she 'played' again, shaping small pieces of dough into rolls.  The experience was positive, and I bet she'll say yes again next time!