Sure, you're not supposed to play with your food, but those rules get boring after a while. Break away from modern manners for a little while and have some fun with your toddler while you slice, bake, mix and laugh your way through some funny food activities. You never know -- your picky eater might even find a few new food favorites.
Your toddler will love this activity because taste-testing is part of the balloon-making fun. Start with a few jumbo marshmallows. Pour some different-colored sugars into a few small bowls so your kiddo has a few selections for her balloons. Next, help her poke a wooden craft stick through the bottom of one marshmallow. Here is when the taste-testing comes in: to make the colored sugar stick to the marshmallow balloon, your toddler gets to lick or bite around the outside of the marshmallow. If she bites off too much, don't worry about it -- now you have different-size balloons. Let her dip the moistened marshmallow into one of the colored sugars and then insert the end of the craft stick into some green floral foam or Styrofoam in a vase. Keep going and make a bouquet of balloons.
Funny Fruit Faces
If you'd rather provide your toddler with a healthy food activity, turn to fruit for some food fun. Even if you have a picky eater, not many toddlers will be able to resist an adorable and funny face made from blueberries or strawberries. Start with a pair of triangle-shaped pineapple slices for the eyes and let your child arrange them on the plate. Top each slice with a raspberry to make the center of the eye. Next comes a slice of banana for the nose and two slices of strawberry for the mouth. Now your toddler can complete her funny face with two arches of blueberries to make the eyebrows. Take a picture of her fruity artwork and then see if she can resist diving in to the healthful treat. If you have a honeydew melon handy, you can replace the plate with a large round slice for a completely edible face.
The Kitchen Scientist
Parents might tell their kids to stop playing with their food, but you have to admit, it's fun! Put away the rules for one afternoon and let your toddler have a swirling, mixing and messy good time trying out new food combinations. Start with a little bowl of applesauce and let her mix in a pinch or two of cinnamon and then let her mash up some berries with her fingers and mix it into another small bowl of yogurt. The purpose isn't to fill her tummy, but rather to let her have a sampling spoonful or two of a variety of different concoctions. Let her mash a little peanut butter and banana and then wash it down with a simple smoothie made from 100 percent pure fruit juice and vanilla yogurt. You can encourage her to sample mixtures even when activity time is over by mixing her mashed potatoes and gravy together or combining her steamed carrots and cauliflower together at dinnertime.
A Cookie Zoo or Garden
Every toddler loves cookies, but let's face it: plain, old chocolate chip cookies get boring. Give your child a whole new appreciation for cookies and teach her a little bit about the animal kingdom or plant life, too. You can start with a store bought-package of sugar cookie dough, or let your little chef help make the cookies from your favorite recipe. Once you've rolled out the dough, let her cut out animal or plant shapes with cookie cutters. Once the cookies have baked and cooled, it's time to really have some fun. Provide her with little bowls of icing, colored sugars, marshmallows and other colorful toppings, and let her transform each animal or flower into her own little work of art.
- Mom and Me Cookbook; Annabel Karmel
- Everything Kids' Cookbook: From Mac ' N Cheese to Double Chocolate Chip Cookies-All You Need to Have Some Finger Lickin' Fun; Sandra K. Nissenberg
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