“Don’t play with your food!” How many times as children did we hear that from our parents? And how many times as parents have we told our children not to play with their food? This having been said at so many different times and in so many different ways, one would think that using food as toys would be one of the most horrendous things we could do. However, there is a difference between playing with food that has been prepared to eat and playing with food ingredients that are intended not so much for playing or eating but for the encouragement of creativity.
What we really want to do is to enable our children to have pleasant experiences with food that will encourage them to want to take part in kitchen activities and to have a positive attitude towards food, its preparation and consumption.
Safe, non-toxic toys can be made from food. Some of these are play dough made from flour, salt and water, potato print blocks and chocolate pudding finger paints. If your child decides to eat the toys there will be no harm done. Of course, you do need to differentiate between the ‘toy food’ and mealtime food. The toy theme should not be encouraged at meal times.
One activity that is fun for small children and which helps to develop eye-hand coordination is making necklaces from macaroni which has first been dyed with food coloring. Children will have fun doing both the dyeing and the stringing. Use yarn, dental floss or button thread to string then on, depending on the size of the holes in the macaroni. Macaroni shapes that can be used are wagon wheels, elbow, rigatoni or penne.
There are countless recipes for Play Dough that can be had on-line. Some recipes use cornstarch, others use flour along with salt, cream of tartar and sometimes baking soda. There are also some that use different vegetables for color to allow for variation in your children’s creations. When you do make the Play Dough allow your child to help make it. This will increase their feeling of accomplishment.
To revamp the above, some of the food toys that you can make at home are listed below.
Play Dough- look on-line for Play Dough Recipes
Macaroni Necklaces- macaroni or pasta shaped with holes – dental floss or yarn – the children can help to dye the macaroni – just mix food coloring with small amounts of water and dip the macaroni in the colored water with teaspoons. Allow to dry before having the children string them.
Suggested Shapes- Elbow Macaroni, Wagon Wheels, Penne, Ziti, short tubular macaroni
Potato Block Printing- parents – cut a potato in half and then cut designs in the cut surface (older children can do this themselves with parental help) and then use food coloring for block printing.
Finger Painting- use instant Chocolate Pudding, Pistachio Pudding or Butterscotch Pudding – start out by placing the pudding in a bowl and slowly adding water while stirring until finger-painting consistency is achieved. Use inexpensive roll paper or brown wrapping paper. This is a good outdoor activity during the summer. While the finger painting ‘masterpieces’ are drying, parents can turn on the sprinklers and allow the children to wash off while having fun at the same time.
Try one of the items at a time and let your child’s reaction gauge how much more you will attempt. The idea is to allow your child to experience creativity and to feel good about him/herself. Enjoyment should be had by both the child and the parent.