I’m not sure about your kids, but my kids are snackers. I mean, sure, every kid loves snacks, but I have to physically ban my children from my kitchen for fear of going bankrupt due to the volume of snacks they can consume. Not that they don’t love meals as well, but I’m pretty sure that my boys are actually hobbits and expect first breakfast, second breakfast, snacks in between, and dessert. Every. Single. Day. They’re not even hungry all of the time. Eating is less of a necessity for them than it is a hobby. They sometimes just sit there and play with their food. So basically what I’m saying is I have almost two year old hobbyist hobbits who go Gollum for snack foods. I mean I’m glad they found their passions so early in life… but c’mon guys. Even Costco is like, “You really need that many Cheerios?”
Yeah. Yeah I do.
So let’s talk about snacking and how we can make it benefit our kids a little more. I don’t mean health wise. This isn’t one of those posts about how to get your kids to eat vegetables (but seriously if you have tips on that hit me up because my kids are allergic to the color green). This post is how I’ve embraced the food-love in our house and made their food-play into food-education. Fooducation. That’s a word now.
Basically, I took snack time and made it into a way that we can learn about little things like math and words instead of walking into Kindergarten one day (very very very very long from now) with PhDs in Face-Stuffing and nothing else. There are ideas here for every age from baby to older kids, so whatever age you’ve got, there’s some way you can merge your after school snack with the homework that follows. Here are 10 Educational Ways Your Kids Can Play With Their Food!
One – Peek-a-Blueberry
When the boys were just starting on solid foods, I liked to put little things (like Cheerios or Blueberries) under a cup. Show it to them, then hide it again. You’re basically playing peek-a-boo, but with their food. My boys would crack up when we’d say “Peek a Boo!” and a blueberry would pop up. Plus, peek-a-boo is a great way to help teach object permanence. Add a couple empty cups to the mix and you have a century old trick of memory.
Two – String-o Cheerio
I use pipe cleaners for this but string or yarn works too. It helps develop fine motor skills for littles and we also count as we put Cheerios on the pipe cleaners. It’s basically one on the pipe cleaner, two in the mouth, but I’ll still take it as a win.
Three – Messiest/Funnest/At Least They’re Not Eating Paint
My boys love to play with paints, but I kind of seize at the idea of open paint in my house at hands of twin toddlers. It will get everywhere and on everything, and what if they eat it and just… no. Can’t handle it. And while the thought of giving them a giant paper plate, yogurt, and a paint brush doesn’t sound overly appealing, at least I know that if they eat it, it’s safe and white greek yogurt is less likely to irreparably damage my dining room set. So let them paint with yogurt. It’s a great boredom buster when nothing else is working.
Four – Go Fishing
For this one, you take a basic old chopstick and put a bit of peanut butter at the end, like 1/4 pea size. Use it to “fish” things like bananas or apple pieces.
Five – Counting
This one may be obvious, but there’s still something to be said for simple counting tricks. Help them count every time they put another piece of food in their mouth. Count out twelve blueberries into the bowl, then count down from twelve as they eat them.
Six – Spaghetti Squares
Use cooked spaghetti noodles to help make shapes and identify them. Use one noodle or four for a square. Throw some meatballs in there for some spherical action.
Seven – Sizing ‘Em Up
Basically you take 3 or more sizes of fruit and arrange them by size. For my boys’ age, we’re mostly just working with three bananas and working on comparing sizes of like things. But kids that are more advanced might like the challenge of deciding which is bigger – the apple or the orange? The avocado or the banana?
Eight – Kitchen Scavenger Hunt
This is a risky one… but if you’re up for the unknown and unpredictable (read: unhealthy) choices your kids might find, I think it’s fun. Make dinner or breakfast focused around one number or letter. Everything on their plate has to start with the letter M, or they have to have exactly 4 different foods on their plate. Fun for when kids are learning about numbers and letters, but also when they’re bored and want you to cook them food. Just be sure to hide the Moon Pies, Mini Reese’s Cups, and M&Ms before you embark on that one.
Nine – Cookie Alphabet
If your child is old enough to be practicing letters, having them cut letters out of cookie dough with a butter knife is a great way to motivate them to practice. Have them cut as long as they need the practice, then at the end, you can bake them and eat a whole bunch of letter cookies. My personal favorites are S cookies, but you know, I wouldn’t scoff at an E.
Ten – Math Pizza, Extra Cheese
When your kids are starting to work on fractions, pull out the pizza cutter. Not only is your kid now being tricked into helping with dinner, but then you can also teach them about fractions, division, pie charts, and even figuring out circumference. I hated math in school, but I might have been more willing to learn if pizza bad been an integral part of my curriculum. I’m just sayin’…
So tell me – how do your kids learn with their food? Are your kids constantly asking for more snacks? I feel like I need a farm or a maybe a 5th bedroom for a pantry to keep these kids fed. Also, I’m pretty sure my kids think yellow and “b’nana” are synonymous at this point because Jude legit tried to peel a bottle of mustard the other day.