Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fun with food

Comments about making children's food fun tend to fall into one of two camps. "It's the only way I can get them to eat healthy stuff!" or "My kids don't need me to con them into eating healthy stuff!"

My kids know how to listen to their own bodies telling them what they need to eat and when. We don't limit or control their food. We do make sure there's a good variety of food available, and plenty of whatever it is they want so that they always have a sense of abundance. There are some great thoughts on food here, but this post isn't about that, it's about fun. Fun with food. And I say, let them play! Not because it will sneak some vitamins into them, but, well, just because it's fun.

Pretty Food

What could be better than sandwiches shaped like their favourite characters? Funky Lunch is one of my favourite sites for cute lunch ideas like this Mater sandwich. They're lovely if you've got a bit of extra time one day to put food together, but a similar idea that's quicker is just using sandwich cutters or cookie cutters; we've got dinosaurs, stars, hearts and butterflies and the boys love playing with their shaped sandwiches or fairy bread.

Food and drink + tonic water + a blacklight = Glow in the dark meals! In the picture below we had glow jelly, glow lemonade, glow ice shapes and glow mashed potato! (It looks a lot more dramatic in real life, I struggled a bit to get a photo that did it justice).

How about a pancake Millennium Falcon? Sprout and Squidge both love pancakes anyway (the stirring, the flipping, the dropping them on the floor and starting again...), but even more when they're shaped like something. Snowmen are our go-to pancake shape, with raisins for eyes and buttons, but we're definitely going to try some Star Wars ones soon!

Hundreds of ideas for fun-looking food can be found with a quick search for Bento Boxes too, plus the compartmentalised boxes are perfect for kids who don't like different foods to touch each other. For extra cute factor you can get little character food picks, tiny sauce bottles, and boiled egg moulds (we have a fish, a car, and an awesome cube one that I used when Sprout had his Lego party).

Fire and food

It's exciting to kids to cook food over a fire, from toasting marshmallows for s'mores, to Australian damper. One project on my list is one of these upcycled firepits so we can do this more often. This is Sprout eating his damper in his shelter that he built with friends.

Bits and Pieces

Muffin Tin Meals, where you put different bits of food in the compartments of a muffin tin, have so much fun potential for cute ideas and themes. Over at Muffin Tin Mom there are loads of ideas, one of my favourites being the Dr Seuss themed meal.

Monkey platters are a similar idea. We make these several times a week as they're lovely to take to the boys when they're engrossed in a film or a computer game.


Not just for birthdays! There's almost nothing you can't pop a candle on, and the kids love blowing them out.

Make believe

Tea parties and the like are a sweet way to eat with little ones. The picture below was taken when our Christmas fairy, who appears every morning in Advent, brought smiley face pancakes for Sprout and Squidge. For older ones I love the idea on A Magical Childhood of dressing the dinner table up opulently.

Picking their own

My boys love to pick their own food, whether it's raspberries from the canes we're lucky enough to have thriving in our garden (below), or a pick your own farm, it's an adventure. If you know what you're doing then wild food is even more exciting - Sprout and Squidge were incredulous and excited in equal measure when we made pancakes out of dandelions!

It's not just fun with stuff that grows, but with food you buy too. We have a few Chinese supermarkets near where we live, and the kids love to go and choose things they've never seen before. The same goes for the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket, or the unusual foods at the deli.

Making yucky stuff

I loved it when I was a kid, and my boys love it now: Making potions! They love choosing ingredients in the kitchen, mixing them up, then smelling or tasting the results to see how horrible they've managed to make it. 

Not eating, just fun!

You don't have to eat the food to have fun with it, there are lots of great crafts you can do with food too, like this castle picture Squidge made from Shreddies.

Other ideas include stamping with celery, building with marshmallows (one of our favourite activities), and making marshmallow shooters (mouths open and aim!). And finally I mustn't forget Diet Coke and Mentos geysers... 

So go, have fun with some food, and if some even gets eaten then fantastic!

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