Food can get in the way of your toddler’s busy play schedule, so it better be worth their while to take time out for a meal or snack. Appeal to your picky little eater’s appreciation for make-believe by getting clever with your food presentation.
You may think, “I don’t have the time, energy or imagination to be creative with food.” Good news: You don’t need a degree in art to create a recognizable figure, animal or scene on a plate. But there are certainly tools that can help your cause.
Use small plastic cookie cutters to add cute cheese, fruit, veggie and lunch meat embellishments to a plate, recommends Jill Dubien, who itemized all of her Fun Food Friday supplies on her Meet the Dubiens blog. You might get the most mileage out of metal cutters, which make it easy to give sandwiches a shape, or opt for sandwich punches which give the basic lunchtime staple a funky personality without much waste.
But most of the time, you don’t need fancy gadgets or incredible vision to whip up some fun food for your toddler. Resourcefulness and good intentions can be just enough to get your toddler to gobble up whatever you put in front of her, or at least give it a taste-test which, as all moms know, can be considered a battle won.
Baa, baa, baa
“Serving fun, creative lunches for your children teaches them to delight in eating healthy and wholesome foods, explore their own creativity and think outside the box,” says Amy Hudson of Creative Kid Snacks. This adorable lamb makes ho-hum cottage cheese an in-demand snack.
This little puppy pot pie
Nothing says home-cooking quite like a pot pie, but you’re unlikely to convince a toddler of that sentiment. On her blog, Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons, Jill Mills features over 250 fun food ideas including these Puppy Pot Pies, which are anything but woof and every bit of edible cuteness.
Taste the rainbow
Bri K.’s craft experiment resulted in seriously cool rainbow spaghetti. Simply add a generous blob of food coloring to the water you cook your pasta in, preparing separate pots of pasta per color. Serving up a plate of multi-hued spaghetti may just jump-start your child’s appetite. Add butter or olive oil, some spices, throw in a protein and you have much more than just plain old spaghetti with sauce.
Bunny hop to the table
An English muffin and peanut butter make up the base of Dubien’s bunny snack, and it’s easy enough to pop on apple slices for ears, blueberries for eyes, carrot whiskers and a strawberry slice nose. Cute, delicious and irresistible. Serve this snack with a side of milk and some functional foodstuff, the clever new Plum Kids Fruit Straws.
Head to Sesame Street
It’s nearly impossible to find a toddler who isn’t in love with at least one or two Sesame Street characters, so try serving up this Bert and Ernie fruit snack from Mills. The only danger here is your kids will be so in love with the look of their snack that they won’t want to destroy it by eating it! (For another fantastic character made out of food, check out Mills’ Despicable Breakfast.)
Fast-growing flower garden
You can create a bouquet of food with your favorite flower or entertain a hodge-podge of petals. No matter how you craft it, this flower pot snack from Hudson is healthy, yummy and good toddler fun. “Lunchtime has become a bonding experience for my girls and me. They’re learning to use the healthy foods they should be eating to create little pieces of art and learn about the world at the same time,” says Hudson.
Put the pieces together
Serving three square meals a day isn’t easy, especially for a toddler who only wants macaroni and cheese. Solve this dilemma by making a puzzle out of lunch. The basics become brand new when they’re cut into puzzle pieces that your child can actually fit together. Dubiens’ puzzle lunch is a sandwich, fruit, yogurt, crackers and cheese. Delish!
We all scream for ice cream
“I have a 2-year-old right now that is pretty picky and some of our fun food has helped him try things,” says Mills. While this dish may take a little more time, the results are so delightful, everyone in your house will want their own plate of her ice cream for lunch – and in this case, it’s grilled cheese with fruit.