Playing with Your Food Is a GOOD Thing! The Benefits of Playing with Food for Preschoolers

“Don’t play with your food! It’s bad manners!”

We’ve had this concept drilled into us from the time we were small, and chances are that we’re drilling it into our children too. And while we don’t think every meal should be a handsy free-for-all, there are plenty of reasons why playing with food could be a beneficial bonus in your preschooler’s life.

Using More Senses Helps Kids Learn Better

The more senses that are involved in an activity, the more your child is going to learn — and retain. Playing with food allows your child to see, smell, feel, hear (what does it sound like when you squish a pea or snap a pretzel?), and even taste. This sensory experience helps with language development, problem solving skills, concentration, and comfort in trying new things.

Playing with Food Decreases Food Battles

We often get into battles of wills at the dinner table. “Eat three more bites, and you can have dessert/go play with your friend/watch a show.” But kids know you can’t actually force them to eat, and so it’s common for them to choose a meal as a time to exert their independence.

Playing with their food removes the battle and gives children a sense of control. It helps them develop curiosity about the food and approach it on their own terms.

Give your child more opportunities to play with new foods, and you may see less resistance during meals.

Playing with Food Helps with Food Aversions

If you have a picky eater, you know how tough it is to get them to try anything new. Letting children play with food lets them experience the food through different senses. They’ll feel the textures with their hands instead of their tongues, which is much more approachable. They may take the time to smell the food or inspect it visually.

And when playing is allowed, pressure is off. This gets your child comfortable with the food so that when it’s presented as a consumable part of a meal, they may be more willing to try it.

Kids Learn Through Play

Kids learn about their world through play. They learn cause and effect, bravery, language development, and so much more. When a child is allowed to play with a food, they’ll learn more about that food. They might ask curious questions, or become fascinated by the food’s details. Again, this will help them get more comfortable with unfamiliar foods.

Let your child guide goldfish crackers on a swim through a new soup. Use bell peppers or apples as sponges for paint. Set broccoli up as a forest for your child’s small animal toys.

But Isn’t It Wasteful to Play with Food?

“You’ll finish your dinner because there are starving children in _______ (fill in the blank).”

Many of us heard this when we were growing up, and it’s a fair point. How can we play with food, when children around the world don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis?

Katie from Preschool Inspirations offers some grounding perspective. She points out that in the United States, we are surrounded by wealth and abundance. Taking showers, driving cars, shopping in a supermarket, and more are all privileges we freely enjoy. And while we know these privileges aren’t available to everyone, we still don’t deprive ourselves of them.

This doesn’t mean we should use our resources wastefully with no regard to anybody else. But perhaps it’s a good idea to focus our efforts on making a difference, like donating generously to someone in need.

Katie also suggests that when playing with food, to use foods that are expired, food that would have been thrown away (maybe you spilled a bag of pretzels or maybe the apple is too bruised), and foods that benefit nature — like birdseed projects done outdoors.

How to Play with Food

  • Let your child cook with you. Try your best not to stress out over messes; this is part of the sensory process.
  • Choose fun ways to present food from time to time. Put chicken on kabob sticks, arrange fruit in rainbow order, cut food into different shapes, let your children build their own tacos, etc.
  • Use food as the subject of an art project. While you prepare dinner, leave an extra cucumber or broccoli stem on the counter and ask your child to draw or paint it. Tell your child to give it arms and legs, change its color, or even come up with a story about their drawing.
  • Have a fun taste test. Choose different food items you know your child likes, and take turns being blindfolded while feeding each other bites of the food. Everyone will have fun as you guess what you’re tasting.
  • Pick your favorites. Buy several types of one kind of food — apples are a good idea. Taste each variety, and vote on your favorites.
  • Before a bite, ask your child what that food will sound like when it’s chewed. Will it be crunchy, soundless, squishy? Similarly, ask your child to describe its appearance or smell.
  • Make food into a math problem. Ask your child to count their grapes on their plate. Then ask them how many will be remaining if they eat one. What about two?
  • Have your child help you make dinner more colorful. What foods can you add to your chicken dinner to make your plates more like the rainbow?
  • String cereal on yarn.
  • Use apples, bell peppers, or potatoes as painting stamps.
  • Use food as checker pieces.
  • Make faces with different food items.
  • Play with pretend food. Invent the wackiest recipes you can.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we eat healthy snacks every day and give the children opportunities to play with their food, prepare their own food, and try new foods. To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930

10 Indoor Activities to Do with Your Preschooler This Winter

Snow is one of the best winter playgrounds, but when little cheeks and noses have had enough of being outside, what can you do to keep your preschooler occupied and active indoors?

Use these fun indoor activities for preschoolers this winter break — and beyond!

1. Make Paper Snowflakes

indoor activities for preschoolers

Making paper snowflakes is a time-honored activity because almost everyone loves it! And major bonus: you can’t mess up a paper snowflake.

Knowing how to use scissors is a critical pre-writing skill. Opening and closing the scissors helps your preschooler develop the small muscles in her hands, while also strengthening hand-eye coordination — both important skills for writing.

Cutting out a paper snowflake also lets your preschooler explore cause and effect — and it’s oh-so-magical once you unfold your paper to see what your snowflake looks like!

[9 Movement Activities for Preschoolers You Can Do at Home]

Depending on your child’s age and abilities, you may need to guide the folding and cutting process, but try and let her do as much as she can on her own!

2. Make a Newspaper Snowman

If there hasn’t been enough snow for a snowman, make your own snowman out of newspaper! Roll up newspaper into balls. Stack the balls and connect them with glue or tape. Attach branches for arms. “Dress” the snowman with hats, gloves, and more.

3. Indoor Obstacle Course

indoor activities for preschoolers

Kids need to move and wiggle, even when it’s too cold to go outside. Make your own obstacle course indoors this winter to keep your preschooler active. Use items you have around your house.

Here are some ideas for your indoor obstacle course:

  • A few Hula-Hoops on the ground creates the perfect setup for skipping, hopping on both feet, hopping on one foot, or jumping backwards. Only have one Hula-Hoop? Have your child jump in and out of it six times with both feet. Now on one foot… you get the idea.
  • Put a broomstick between two chairs, and have your child limbo (or crawl) under it.
  • Line up a few chairs in a row, and have your child crawl under or over them.
  • Throw a bean bag (or ball of socks) into a bucket (or kitchen pot).
  • Add a blindfold to the beanbag toss for extra fun.
  • Somersault from one spot to another.
  • Give your child a ladle or tongs, and have him fill a bowl with small toys or marbles.
  • Put a stuffed animal on your child’s head, and instruct her to walk from one point to another.

indoor activities for preschoolers

4. Indoor Ice Skating

For some slippery fun, wrap wax paper around your child’s feet and secure with rubber bands. Let him walk (er… slide) across the carpet. Move things out of the way because this is slippery and a fall may happen.

5. Paint with Noodles

indoor activities for preschoolers

Yep, you read that right! Children love to paint, and it’s even more fun and interesting when you use “paintbrushes” that aren’t actually paintbrushes! Your child will get the opportunity to predict (what will the painting look like?), explore, and be creative.

To make your spaghetti noodle paintbrush:

  1. Gather a small bunch of uncooked spaghetti noodles and tie a rubber band about 1/4 from the bottom.
  2. Cook them as normal, with a little bit of oil, leaving the tied-off part out of the water.
  3. Set your spaghetti noodle paintbrush out to cool.
  4. Once cool, get painting!

6. Read

It’s such a simple activity that we often overlook the chance to sit down and read. When the weather outside is frightful, that’s the perfect time to snuggle close and read book after book. Make it even more fun and special by getting a cozy blanket and a warm treat.

7. Make Something in the Kitchen

Sure, making cookies during the winter is a fun activity for everyone, but take a moment to think outside the mixer and see what meals or snacks your preschooler can create all on her own. This not only frees up your hands and brain, it gives your preschooler a huge sense of accomplishment — and a higher chance of trying the food she made!

Preschoolers can use plastic knives to chop fruit for their own fruit salad, top their own individual English muffin pizza, make their own sandwich, prepare their own quesadilla, and more.

8. Shaving Cream Letter Practice

Generously fill a tray with shaving cream. Have your child practice letters or “draw” pictures in the cream. (Make sure you tell your preschooler that this is not the kind of cream we eat.)

9. I Spy

Classic car games become the perfect way to pass the time indoors in the winter when you add the right prop. Glue or tape two toilet paper rolls together for a pair of binoculars. Then, use them to play I Spy. Your preschooler will love looking through their binoculars to figure out your clues.

You can also play Name Three Things. For example, tell your child to name three things in the room that are blue/tall/alive/round. He can use his binoculars to locate the three things.

10. Stack Cups

Playing with building blocks is a favorite pastime for many children. Change up the regular routine by letting your preschooler see what she can build with a few dozen paper or plastic cups. Challenge her to use all the cups for one creation, to build three towers with all the cups, to make three different creations with only six cups, and so on.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we use art, music, social studies, dance and movement, science, math, reading and writing, and imagination to fully engage our students and help them develop both the left and right hemispheres of their brains. Come see us in action. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to set up a tour.