Let’s Play with Our Food! Inserting Fun into Feeding
Rachel Hochstadt, MA, RD, CSP, CDN
We know feeding your child sounds so simple – when it is not (enter, Foublie). The world we live in has made it incredibly complicated.Here are some simple solutions for you to try at home with your littles that aim to make feeding more fun and beneficial.
Get Kids in the Kitchen
One of the best things you can do as a parent is getting your child involved in meal prep. The research is paramount supporting family meals in general. Compared to children whose families have little to no family meals, children who participate in 3 to 5 family meals a week (really not THAT many), lower their risk of obesity five fold, have improved nutrient intake, are less likely to eat “unhealthy” foods and are more likely to maintain healthy eating habits. You can do this (extended family counts too)! Getting messy, and having fun with food in the kitchen helps create a familiarity with food prep, creating food and simply being in the kitchen. Here are five fun food ideas to try: Banana Sushi, Fruit Skewers, Mini Pepper Pizzas, Donut Apples and Cheesy Eggs in the Hole with Bacon. All of these recipes also include some fun prep your child will love. For example, cookie cutters and no cookies!
Forget the Fork
Let’s make things interesting! Using different feeding tools in the kitchen is a fantastic way to incorporate fun and function while eating. For one, it promotes varied hand eye coordination. It also makes the food experience interesting for your child. Some fun ideas including using food picks for snacktime – kiddie cheese plate anyone? For older children, try using chopsticks! There are a bunch of kid – friendly versions available on the internet, including those linked here and here.
The traditional plated meal definitely has its role in the feeding realm. It is a good teaching tool in clearly showing the balanced components of a meal (protein, fat, carbohydrates and vegetables). However, it can also be super fun AND beneficial to mix things up. For example – next time you’re plating dinner, use a muffin tin as the serving plate. Ask your little one to fill each nook with bites of whatever is being served. Not only does it semi – highlight portioning but also gets your child hands on with the food being served (we apologize in advance about the mess).
“Chips” and dip are not just for grown ups! Dunking foods into a dip is a fun activity and also gives your child the ability to choose the amount they “dip”. Research has shown that providing children some autonomy while feeding is helpful long term. Some fun recipes that are kid friendly include hummus, guacamole, bean dip, salsa and greek yogurt dip. In addition to chips and pita for dipping, it’s always fun to throw some fruits and veggies in there! Chop up some cucs, peppers and carrot sticks. Sliced apple for your yogurt dip works too. Just remember it’s great to provide fruits and veggies but not needed to put the pressure on to eat them all.
Have a Picnic
Sometimes you just need to break up the monotony at home. Your child may associate sitting at the table with fights and being forced to eat. How about you put down a picnic blanket in the middle of your living room or your yard and set up dinner there for a night? You can enforce that they sit and be mindful when food is actually in their mouth, but then let them walk around if they need to get the jitters out. Toddlers especially often can’t sit for more than 5 minutes! One other idea is to set up a helper stool such as this one that they use to stand instead of sitting at the table or counter. Just changing up how mealtime is happening can make it seem more fun for kids and less of a battle.