Food activities for kids can be a life-saver when you’ve got some down time. Better than endless hours in front of Netflix, or hammering the latest video game, food crafts can help pass the time while accomplishing important developmental needs like building autonomy and new skills.
Too much time on your hands these days? Or, just want to feel like there’s some learning happening with the activities in which your child chooses to participate?
Whether it’s a slow weekend, a stay-cation, or a prolonged time off for illness, having a few food activities for kids can accomplish some pretty important jobs.
All Kids Need to Build Autonomy
As children grow and develop, they naturally need (and want) to become more independent. This starts small with babies wanting to feed themselves, and grows over time to the point at which teens are ready to make their own food decisions and manage their own cooking and eating.
For parents who have picky eaters, the drive for independence may show up in wanting to have a say about what and how much goes on their plate. And… what doesn’t go on their plate.
Even if it’s simply choosing between an apple and a banana, kids (and, yes, even picky eaters) want and need to have agency around food choices and eating.
In fact, a 2017 study in International Journal of Behavior, Nutrition and Physical Activity points out that helping picky eaters eat better not only involves having regular mealtimes and limiting distractions, it also requires a keen appreciation for a child’s developmental need to be autonomous with eating.
This is good guidance for all kids.
Food Activities for Kids Facilitate Learning and Development
So, if you find you have time on your hands, realize you have a golden opportunity to explore food using food crafts, food games, and other food activities for kids.
And while doing so, remember to embrace your child’s drive for autonomy and focus on enjoyment.
Here are some fun food activities you can do with your child:
1. Read Together: Children’s Books about Food and Eating
Learning about food by reading age-appropriate, entertaining books can be an easy, no pressure way to build food and nutrition knowledge. When your picky eater reads D.W. the Picky Eater, he may be able to relate and see a path to new food experiences.
Or, when your toddler learns how to pronounce the names of fruits and vegetables, and learns where they come from, that knowledge can migrate into the kitchen and cooking experiences.
Here’s a list of 50 children’s books about food and nutrition, ranging from how food is grown and what food does for the growing body, to stories of living with food allergies and picky eating (and more).
2. Food Crafts for Kids
Food can be used for a multitude of crafts, helping your child develop fine motor skills and perhaps experience a new taste here and there.
- Use Produce Stamps. Cut fruit, like a strawberry, or a vegetable, like green pepper, in half, dip into paint and press onto paper.
- Make a Food Necklace by stringing popcorn, dried fruit, and cereal.
- Finger paint pictures using edible paint, pudding or yogurt.
- Use toast as a canvas for a modern art scape using nut butter topped with fresh or dried fruit and seeds.
- Make a Plate Face with colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Decorate cookies or cupcakes with frosting sprinkles, candy or other toppings.
3. Food Games and Taste-Tests
Playing with food is a no-no in many homes, but truthfully, it can be a fun way to introduce new foods, interact with them, and just have fun using a different learning tool.
- Play the Same- Same Game: Sort food by color, shapes, or smells (all red fruit and veggies in a pile, all round items placed together, and so on).
- Conduct a Pretend TV Interview: Let your child be the cooking show host or the interviewer of a favorite stuffed animal about favorite snack foods.
- Play Name this Food: Blindfolded, let children guess the food. Is it a red pepper or green pepper? Nectarine or peach? Asian pear or an apple?
- Play Taste this New Food: Use a baby spoon as a tool for dipping and have your child guess what he’s tasting. Try flavored applesauce, different yogurt flavors, Italian ice, sherbet, salad dressing, nut butters, etc.
Other Fun Food Activities for Kids
You really can make just about anything fun with food. Even the routine of making snacks can be a fun food activity for your child.
1. DIY (Do It Yourself) Snacks
Hand over the job of making snacks to your child. Lay out a few acceptable options for snack time, such as peanut butter, banana and rice cakes, or deli meat, cheese and crackers, and let your child make her own assembly.
This food activity will serve up a dose of autonomy while keeping the food options aligned with your daily plan.
2. A Snack Plate for the Win
Or, try a snack plate containing several snack options and let the picky eater choose his snack from the options on the platter. Here are some ideas for your snack plate (or let your child come up with some!):
- Cut, fresh fruit
- Dried fruit
- Raw veggies and dip
- Dry cereal
- Granola bars (broken into bite-sized pieces)
- Deli meat (rolled and cut into bite-sized pieces)
- Cheese squares, cubes or sticks
- Pita triangles or chips
I think it’s okay to add a little sweet treat to the platter as well. A cookie, some chocolate, or a small pile of candy added to a platter of nutritious snack items can entice your child to eat a nice variety of foods.
Worried about your child ONLY eating sweets? These posts will help: