Easy ideas to help your little ones enjoy and experiment with their food

Ahhh – January. A month when some of us get a chance to pause and take a breath after the madness of Christmas and before we plunge into the year ahead. It can be a time when we have a little more time on our hands, a chance to actually start some of the things on our to-do lists and spend a bit more quality time with the kids. So this month I’m looking at some enjoyable food activities and ideas to give you all some fun.

Here is a grab bag of ideas, a mix for older children as well as for the younger ones. Some have a sneaky intention to improve your children’s nutrition, maybe by making them more familiar with vegetables they don’t usually eat, or adding some fruit to their daily diet. Others are just fun. They may not all be super-healthy but I’m a firm believer that becoming more familiar with different foods, including cooking and preparing them, is a great way to improve variety now and good health in the future. Eating better and learning cooking skills while young may even promote better health when your little ones have grown up and even when they’re mums and dads themselves (perish the thought!).

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Great ideas for cooking with the kids:

  • Food on sticks – this one is only for children old enough to handle a sharp stick! Thread a mix of fruit chunks onto skewers. For a savoury meal use meat or a plant-based protein, such as chopped cooked chicken or cooked tempeh, alternated with colourful vegetables.
  • Flapjack or homemade muesli bars are always a favourite and the oats are a great fuel source for kids.
  • Make you own muesli, using oats, seeds, chopped nuts if there are no allergy issues, and a mix of dried fruits your kids enjoy.
  • Make butter by taking turns to whisk cream…though a set of electric beaters will make this much easier!
  • Sweeten the thought of vegetables with vegetable-based cakes – zucchini, beetroot and chocolate, or carrot cakes, or try pumpkin scones.
  • Bake or fry vegetable chips.
  • Chill out with home-made ice blocks – try freezing fruit chunks on sticks, whole bananas (maybe dipped in melted chocolate or painted with warmed Nutella (unless nut allergies are present)), or homemade smoothies or juice. You can use ice block moulds or just part-fill small plastic cups and prop an ice-block stick in it before freezing it.
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Food fun time:

  • Have a picnic, maybe in the garden, at the park, or even in the living room…or camp in a tent made with sheets draped over the dining table!
  • Make food into pictures on plates. Try googling ‘food fun’ and check out the images for a wealth of fun ideas, some tricky but others as easy as pie. Use shapes such as sandwiches or chopped or grated cheese. Or chop large fruit and veg into chunks, either raw or cooked but still firm. Try sweet potato, potato, carrot, apple (squeeze on lemon to stop it discolouring) or melon. Put a pile of cubes on a plate and let the kids design or build. I guarantee some of the building blocks will disappear into their tummies.
  • Get kids to design a dinner of their choosing, then help with shopping and preparing it, so far as they are able.
  • Grow something or buy a plant – beans are a perfect place to start. If you plant a few bean seeds in a small plastic bag of soil your kids can see the roots as they form. Then transfer to a pot when the plant gets bigger. Or try a bigger bush or tree, such as a blueberry or mandarin.
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Get kids involved in everyday food

The start of a new year is a great time to embed habits that will speed up routines and make life easier. Maybe your little ones could start learning to:

  • help to get their own breakfast
  • set the table or clear plates away afterwards
  • unpack their lunchbox after childcare
  • butter toast or make sandwiches
  • chop soft fruit for a colourful fruit salad.

Whatever you and your family have been getting up to in January, I hope the month has brought some relaxation, delicious food, and family fun.

© Fiona Hinton 2021


About Fiona: Fiona Hinton is a dietitian, but describes herself as a nutrition translator, taking the science of nutrition and translating it into foods we love to eat, to nourish both body and soul. She has over 20 years of experience as a dietitian, working in a wide range of areas from hospital wards to running her own private practice. Fiona has a special interest in children’s nutrition. As a mum of three school-age boys, she has first-hand experience of the issues associated with feeding young children, such as weaning and fussiness. Fiona specialises in real-life strategies and practical suggestions to convert nutrition advice into food kids will eat. Fiona has collaborated on several books, including one with best-selling children’s food writer Annabel Karmel, as well as training childcare staff in children’s nutrition. Signoff Fiona Hinton(1)

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