Three Tips for Child Development through Family Food Fun
Research shows that one of the healthiest things you can do with your children is bond with them over family dinners. However, in our rushed society, finding time to enjoy meals together can be difficult. Getting children to eat nutritious meals can be challenging, too.
Thankfully, children can bond with parents over healthy foods right from the beginning, and there are ways to create good experiences with foods as they grow. Remember the first time your child tried baby cereal? How did they react as they moved into organic baby foods, mashed carrots, and bits of banana?
If you’ve ever played the game where the spoon becomes an airplane or a car, you know that playing with food can help children enjoy their meals. Even though it’s messy, it’s fun, and you both win every time a bite goes down.
Children communicate and learn through playing. Providing ways for them to explore foods, play with foods, and even create their own foods can build their confidence and their ability to take care of themselves.
Tip #1: Enjoy Sweet and Sticky Sensory Experiences
As your toddlers begin to explore finger foods like raisins and pretzel sticks, you can expand their knowledge by encouraging edible playtime. Working together to string cereal into a necklace can help build their eye-hand coordination. You can also mix up a batch of edible playdough from Jell-O, peanut butter or Nutella, or marshmallows.
A super-easy sensory experience for young toddlers is to allow them to finger-paint with pudding. You can add ice cream toppings such as strawberry or caramel syrup for a variety of colors and flavors. Mini chocolate chips or sprinkles can add a bit of texture and color, too.
Tip #2: Let Your Kiddos Practice in the Kitchen
You might already have a Pinterest board full of holiday-themed food ideas. Consider adding another board for ideas of fun, creative things you can make from food and enjoy together.
Use fruit pieces to make a face on a morning bowl of cereal. Arrange fruit and veggies on a tray to look like caterpillars, bears, turkeys, or flowers. Make snowmen from marshmallows or bagels and cream cheese. Decorate cupcakes together.
As your children become more adept at creating foods and eating them, they’ll gain confidence in their ability to do things by themselves. You can nurture this by allowing them to practice with child-sized kitchen equipment, such as the small glass pitchers and cups found in the Montessori Services Practical Life Items kit. Etsy shops are another great place to search for kiddo-sized kitchen and household items they can use themselves.
Tip #3: Plant a Garden
Children can get a sense of where their food comes as you plant gardens together. Start some green bean seeds in plastic cups on your windowsill. If it’s spring or summer, take the fun outside. Help your children plant their own gardens, visit farmer’s markets, and make your own dried fruit snacks.
The fun doesn’t have to stop when cold weather sets in, either. Consider growing an indoor garden together with something like the Veritable Smart Indoor Garden kit, or sprout mung beans and alfalfa seeds in plastic trays.