Having fun is one of the most natural things for kids to do. Have you noticed how they can turn most any object or activity into fun? They make simple objects into playthings, creating entire worlds filled with excitement and adventure. As parents, we almost never have to guide our kids into ways to have fun.
One of the best things you can do for your kids is to encourage this sense of play. It stimulates creativity and learning all at the same time even if the game or activity seem simplistic. Not only can you encourage your kids to have this creative play, but you can participate in the fun and games as well.
Then, why is it that when it comes to food we get so serious?
‘Don’t play with your food, was the mantra at all my friends’ homes when I was growing up.
‘Think of all the starving children around the world’ my mother would say.
Not only was the food at times boring, but it sometimes didn’t look or smell wonderful either. Yet we were always being reminded that eating was serious business and no creating food art on your plate was allowed.
It’s hard for kids to feel appreciation for the food they eat when, we as parents are lecturing them over meals. Is it really any wonder that kids grow up to be picky eaters or at the very least, uninterested in experimenting with new foods that suddenly appear on their plates?
When your children were babies, you may have coaxed them to eat in any way possible. I remember making silly faces and buying spoons that look like airplanes so the food could come in for a ‘landing,’ which was hopefully in my kid’s open mouths.
When did that all change? Are we still hearing the recording in our head that says. “don’t play with your food?” And how can you change it back so your kids want to eat, are willing to try new things, and actually have a pleasant time at the dinner table while maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet?
Can we transcend the old recordings in our heads?
Nothing is impossible when you decide you want something. Even though you can’t create in your kids’ Universes, you can lead by example and start to lighten up if they develop a “playful” attitude about food you’d rather stifle.
Be willing to try new things and to let your kids be involved in the creative process of the food. Rather than having cans be the chosen way to eat much of the time, show them how plants grow by planting a small garden. Even if you live in an apartment, you can plant a miniature garden in a pot. It’s all about showing your children a process of creation so they can better learn to appreciate the food they eat.
You can find a food with a funny shape that your kids have never seen before. It might be the perfect opportunity to literally play with it. Check out some of the many books that have fun pictures created using food. Even Sesame Street has a book titled Funny Food Faces with a cover featuring a couple favorite puppet characters constructed from a variety of fruits and veggies.
Encourage your kids to try new foods by playing eating games such as ‘Crunch-a-Color’ or the ’52 New Foods Challenge’ invented by Jennifer Tyler Lee and her kids. She learned that by making up eating games and letting her kids be invested in choosing and preparing foods, they were much more willing to broaden their horizons.
Making food fun, your children will gain better nutrition and you’ll have a good time together, bonding in a way that you might not otherwise. Just remember to keep your own mind open — you never know, you might just learn to like Brussel sprouts, especially if you play with them a bit.
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© 2015. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.