Play With Food
I can see why adults are continuously reminding children not to play with food. It’s messy, it’s rude and it’s bad mannered but it is FUN! So, why not? Food is fun, it’s squishy and adults are always playing with it. We are always there at the kitchen counter cooking, cutting and serving so why not let your little one have a little fun in the kitchen and allow your child to experiment with foods in a natural way.
Cutting foods, pouring water and self-feeding are amazing skills that even the youngest toddlers can master with little practice. Introducing utensils at a young age can only help your child develop the fine motor skills that it takes to self-feed and master skills that she will need to become a skilled independent preschooler.
Offering the opportunity is the first step in creating a child friendly food experience. It is easy to prepare a child friendly work and feeding space in your home or outside. This area will help give your child clear expectations of what should happen there.
Prepare the work area:
- cutting board
- toddler knife ( cheese knife)
- cloth napkin
- bowl or plate
- water container
Cutting: Cutting is a very exciting and challenging milestones for even older preschoolers. Invest in toddler knives or find chunky handled cheese knives without sharp edges. Encourage your toddlers to cut pre-sliced apples or potatoes into small pieces, uses those pieces for a meal or snack.
Spreading: By serving a small side of the smear for the bread, muffin, pancake or cracker, your child can create their own lunch. Simply offer a dollop of cream cheese, peanut butter, jam or other spreadable toppings along side a cheese knife-Watch them go.
Pouring Water: Children of all ages love pouring especially toddlers. Using a small water container that your child can easily lift let your toddler pour his own drinks throughout the meal.
Self–Serving: Instead of serving a meal to your child, set the table family style and allow your child to take their own helping of food
Stirring, whisking, beating, blending, pouring and smearing are all ways that your child can help you in the kitchen. Using these verbs while working can be very helpful to making cooking and creating fun and help your child become more skilled in these areas.
Very young children can drink from a cup and self-feed using utensils, its just a matter of how early you introduce such tasks and how often you allow for “practice.” Children this age love the opportunity to feel independent, to indulge themselves in the creative process and have an outcome they can be proud of and really enjoy. Yummm!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programing for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.