If there was a greatest hits list of clichéd parent quotes, “stop playing with your food” would definitely be on it! So, after years of being told not to play with their food, imagine your child’s glee when you suddenly encourage them to do just that.
From yogurt painting to food games that double as crafts, check out our list of food games for kids that will have them cleaning their plate in more ways than one!
1. Make a rainbow snack
One of the few food games for kids that hit basically every mark — crafting, sorting, fine motor skills, and of course, snacking. This rainbow snack from Mom Making Stuff requires little more than paper, scissors, pipe cleaners and Froot Loops, and boom! You’ve got a sweet activity and yummy snack.
2. Name that food
Older kids will love a blindfolded taste test. First, have them guess the food from touch and smell alone, then let them taste it. Were they right? Did their guess change after they tasted it? When it comes to this food game, really the possibilities are endless.
3. Make food art
Jazz up snack time by creating funny food faces or animals. “Children love interactive projects they can touch, smell and taste,” says Stephanie Maze, author of Healthy Foods from A to Z.
“Making food faces engages kids in a creative and artistic activity, while possibly helping them overcome aversions to specific foods.” To tackle food aversions and picky eaters, present an assortment of foods — including your child’s favorites and those they’re not so sure about. Everyone must use all ingredients, and whoever has the silliest food face wins. And if you do have a picky eater on your hands, try these 12 tricks to fix a picky eater.
4. Make edible play dough
Did you know you can make edible play dough? It’s true! And there area number of recipes to choose from, including Kool-Aid play dough and peanut butter play dough. (Though, for the latter, only let tots over age 1 enjoy this treat, as it contains honey and the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend honey consumption for infants 12 months and under.)
5. Paint with yogurt
Stir food coloring, brightly colored juice — like beet juice — or powdered gelatin into plain yogurt to make safe paints even your littlest tot can enjoy. (In this yogurt painting video from The Bast Family, Mom uses food coloring.)
Use it on paper, a high chair tray or even in the bathtub. No yogurt on hand? Mix 2 cups cold water with 2 cups flour, and color as desired.
6. Jab it
Angela Todd, a kitchen coach and senior consultant of family culture and history at Funnermother, suggests using small pretzel sticks and round foods like grapes, raspberries or cooked meatballs for this game. See how many pieces of food fit on a pretzel stick, then eat and repeat. Can your kids make a repeating pattern, like grape, raspberry, grape? Encourage them to make a pyramid or a cube using round foods as corner pieces to hold the pretzels together. Not only are you having a delicious snack, you’re sneaking in a quick geometry lesson!
7. Eat your game pieces
Does your kid constantly put game pieces in their mouth? For once, you won’t have to worry. With these food games, you can eat the game pieces! Cover a checkerboard in plastic wrap and use fruits, crackers or cereal instead of the actual checker pieces.
Todd explains: “When you jump over a piece, eat that game piece instead of adding it to your pile. With beginners, the goal is to get to the other side, and whoever has the most edible pieces left when you run out of moves wins. This also eliminates the ‘king me’ stage of the game, which often confuses young kids.”
If your little one prefers fast-paced games, try playing tic-tac-toe with two different veggies.
8. Create marshmallow masterpieces
Help your kids make sculptures, bridges, towers and more using mini-marshmallows, pretzel sticks and uncooked spaghetti noodles. How tall can they build a tower? How long can they make a bridge?
9. Explore a food sensory bin
Let your kids explore their senses of taste, smell and touch with a food sensory bin, such as this one from Sensory Play All Day. Mix up your favorite gelatin in multiple flavors and colors with pieces of fruit or fruit snacks suspended in the gelatin, then dump into a plastic container. Your kiddo can dig out the fruit using a spoon, or simply enjoy playing with the gelatin using different utensils and cups. Other sensory bin ideas include hunting for mini-marshmallows in a large container of crispy rice cereal or digging for gummy worms in a bowl of mud made from chocolate pudding and crumbled chocolate cookies.