My friend was watching her son's little boy for the afternoon and snapped this photo of him eating his lunch. They had hammered a small board into the tree to make the perfect perch for a picnic. It got me thinking...How can I make lunch more fun?
It can be a challenge to come up with new and creative meals that are acceptable to toddler/preschooler palettes. Here are a few things we do at home to make lunch (and meals in general) more fun.
(I should warn you that most of these photos show us eating sweet treats, which are actually not an every day thing in our house. I guess these snacks were special enough to be camera-worthy.)
Get 'em in the kitchen with you. My son, and now my daughter, love to help me measure, pour, scoop, stir and whisk. You've probably heard this before, but getting them involved and proud of the meals that go on the table really does help peak their interest in food. Yes, it is going to be messy. Yes, things may not look or turn out perfect. This will be a learning experience for both of you. Working in the kitchen together provides opportunities to work with numbers, letters and sequencing.
Use cool instruments...We cut sandwiches in to fun shapes with cookie or sandwich cutters and make pancakes into Star Wars, Mickey Mouse and dinosaur shapes (find a good selection of pancake molds at Williams-Sonoma). This ice cream maker from REI is super fun - toss in rock salt, real vanilla bean extract, sugar, cream and ice into the chambers and shake, shake, shake. Even the littlest ones can roll the ball around. Toss in some jam or preserves to make natural flavored and colored ice cream.
These kids' chopsticks are a huge hit at our house - more fun than a fork and helps with fine motor skills.
This set of construction truck utensils is also a fan favorite around here. Bulldozer some black beans and use your fork lift to deliver the goods.
Take it outside...Throw down a blanket, find spot in a tree or just sit at the picnic table. Eating outside always spices things up.
Allow for silliness. A bacon mustache? Raspberries on your fingertips? Sure! I have no problem with kids playing with their food - as long as it ends up in their mouth.
See food preparation and assembly in action. Find a factory or restaurant in your town that provides tours (Chick-Fil-A offers them). Watching the food being made can be very exciting to a little person - all the machines, noises and plastic gloves. Last summer we toured a local candy factory and then got to make candy ourselves to take home.
Bento lunches are a big trend and The Lemonista has some cute ideas. Here are a few other neat Bento sites including one with steps on how to get started:
I hope this inspires you to get cooking with your kiddos!
Side note: This book was recently given to me for my birthday and it really has me jazzed. The snacks and lunches (especially the spiced roasted garbanzo beans and egg salad sandwich) are inspiring me to make delicious simple lunches for myself too (not just gobbling down whatever the kids are having or going with the usual turkey, mixed greens and hummus wrap). The photos are stunning and the writing and language is engaging. It really has me re-energized in regards to cooking and getting my tail to San Fran as soon as possible. Check out her blog here.