Making Mealtime Fun for Little Ones
Summary: Are you having trouble helping your kids engage constructively at mealtime? Then you might want to try some of these hacks to make meals fun for your children.
Making sure that your kids get proper nutrition is an important part of being a parent, but getting children to sit down and concentrate at mealtime can be a struggle. After all, most types of foods simply aren't interesting to children, and you'll need to dress things up in a kid-friendly style if you want to encourage healthy eating habits. Figuring out how to make your meals appealing to kids can be just as hard as getting your little ones to sit down and eat, however, so we've put together a brief guide to some of the things you can do to make meals fun and engaging for children.
Make Eating an Educational Experience
Making sure that the food you give to your children is free from dangerous chemicals and additives is one important aspect of a parent's responsibilities, but you'll also need to make meals engaging enough for kids to pay attention and eat. One way to make meals fun for your little ones is to turn various types of food into lessons. For instance, you can use a tortilla or a round piece of flatbread to make a clock face, and then you can make clock hands out of thin slices of cheese. From there, you can make clock numbers from slices of cheese, and you can add edible accentuating features at certain places along the clock. That way, your kids can learn about how to keep time as they enjoy a delicious snack.
Other examples of educational food tricks you can try include making a tic-tac-toe board out of hummus, ketchup, or a similar substance and making board pieces out of carrot sticks and round food items like cherry tomatoes. In addition, you can try making faces that display different emotions out of sliced vegetables, and you can then talk to your toddler or small child about the emotions these vegetables represent as they eat them. If you want to make sure that your kid gets the most possible enjoyment out of the experience, include them in the preparation process as well.
Cookie Cutters Aren't Just for Cookies
While those cookie cutters in your drawer might usually stay dormant every year until Christmas, there are plenty of other ways that you can use cookie cutters besides for cutting cookies. Especially when your baby is relatively new to solid foods, it can be helpful to make foods into small bites that are easy for kids to hold and manipulate with their tiny hands, and cookie cutters make these little bites into interesting shapes that your little ones will want to investigate closely as they eat.
Be creative with the types of food scenes you make with cookie cutters, but one example of an idea you can use is making a starry sky out of healthy sandwiches with moon, sun, and star cookie cutters. In addition, if you have any farm animal cookie cutters lying around, you can make an entire farm scene out of open-faced sandwiches, and you can even use shredded lettuce to replicate the appearance of lush, thick grass.
Use Lots of Colors
Whatever type of plan you pick for making mealtime fun for your little ones, don't forget to incorporate lots of bright colors into your meals. One way to achieve a colorful effect is to use different colored variants of popular foods; for instance, you can substitute purple sweet potatoes for the usual orange, and you can also pick up a bag of multicolored carrots the next time you're at the store instead of going with the usual shade. Alternatively, you can use food coloring to achieve the desired effect, and you can even include your kids in the cooking process and allow them to pick out their favorite colors.
Some types of foods add color to whatever you use them in. If you add blueberries to yogurt or pancakes, for instance, they'll naturally lend a purple color to whatever they touch. Strawberries also make everything around them red, and don't forget that smoothies are colorful snacks that your kids will love to drink on hot days.
Animal Shapes Are Great
However you do it, try to incorporate animal shapes into the meals you feed to your kids. Children almost invariably love animals, and they'll love chomping into the likeness of their favorite cute creature even more. For instance, you can make a simple slice of turkey into a turtle if you fold it along the middle and add a cherry tomato head. Then, use asparagus tips or thin slices of celery for the head, and if you're feeling extra creative, you can even use your kid's favorite sauce to make a patterned shell on top of the turkey turtle's "back."
It's also easy to make a sandwich into a cat's face if you use a round piece of bread and top it with slices of ham or turkey. Make triangles out of cheese and use them for the ears, and then use olives or cherry tomatoes for eyes. For the finishing touches, make a triangular nose out of your favorite vegetable, and use chives for whiskers.
Everything's Better with Squeeze Bottles
Kids love eating things out of squeeze bottles, and whether you put a smoothie in a squeeze bottle and give it your little one at the table or fill it with hummus and allow your kid to squeeze away, there are lots of ways to use these simple silicone bottles to make mealtime fun. In addition, you can fill these bottles with various types of colorful sauces and add flair to your kids' plates. For instance, you can write messages around the food on a plate, and you can also outline various meals with stars, moons, and other shapes.
- Jennifer Akiyama