Many parents are frustrated when they see their children playing with their meals, but games involving food can be fun and educational. Medical experts say that kids introduced to the wonders of the kitchen learn to appreciate the foods they eat and make better eating choices throughout life. Here are 13 food games for kids of all ages that parents can enjoy too.

Why Bother Playing Food Games for Kids?

Making something that kids are familiar with, such as food, fun is more than just a way to pass the time. Here are a few reasons why playing with food can benefit kids:

  • It inspires creativity because kids are doing something different with the food they’re familiar with.
  • It encourages them to try new foods.
  • It prompts kids to eat fruits and vegetables because they’re great for games.
  • A family can spend quality time together in the kitchen.
  • It gets kids away from the television, cell phone or computer screen.
  • Parents have a fun way of teaching children about the foods they eat.
  • It’s a great way to deal with picky eaters because it creates a positive impression of the food they play with.

Educational Ways To Play With Food

The game you choose will depend on the food you have on hand, the time you have to play, your children’s ages and what you want your kids to learn. Many of these games encourage creativity. Some will help your children navigate a recipe. There’s even a science project. Keep this list on hand, and when you need to occupy your kids, choose an activity that suits your circumstances.

Sandwich Faces

A classic game for kids is turning their food into people. If your children like peanut butter, have them spread it on bread and use a combination of banana, apple, pear and strawberry slices to create eyes, a nose, a mouth, and ears. Another option is to use cream cheese and chopped vegetables. Start with cucumber rounds, bell pepper strips, triangular tomato slices, and celery pieces. You could even run a contest to see who makes the funniest or most detailed face. Tell them to look at each other for inspiration. This gets them to notice particular characteristics of a human face, which can help with recognizing and remembering people.

Food Stories

Encourage your children’s storytelling abilities by turning each item on their plate into a character. A chicken leg could be Charlie, rice could be Malcolm and peas could be Susan. Then, as they eat their meal, ask them to tell you a story about the food characters.

The Egg Experiment

Food games can teach kids about science. Gather your children for a science experiment with eggs and follow the scientific method. Set out two hard-boiled eggs and two tall, clear glasses. Have half a cup of salt and some warm water ready. Explain to your children that they’re going to create two different liquids to see which one will make the egg float and which one will make it sink. One glass will have salt water while the other will have plain water. Before you do anything, ask your children to decide what will happen to each egg. Then, fill both glasses three-quarters of the way with water. Pour the half-cup of salt into one of them and stir until the salt dissolves. Let your children gently put one egg into each of the glasses. Check the results against their hypotheses and discuss with them why the egg floats in the salt water and sinks in the plain water.

The Chopstick Game

Chopsticks are fun tools and can become a game for children who don’t know how to use them. It’s best to teach them during snack time, though, rather than during a full meal to make sure they don’t end up so frustrated that they refuse to finish eating. Small items such as dried fruit, nuts, cheese or meat cubes, and small squares of fresh fruit and vegetables make good choices for chopsticks.

Cereal Jewelry

Make a necklace of unsweetened O-shaped cereal. Use a string with firm fibers, such as a shoestring or cooking twine. Turn it into a math game by having your children count the cereal as they put it on the string.

Food Towers

Some foods are begging to be used like building blocks. Carrot and celery sticks work well for this. Slices of cucumber, zucchini, and potatoes give a food tower a rounded look. Really, any firm fruit or vegetable piece can be added to the tower. You can also go in a different direction and use graham crackers or regular crackers as if you were building houses out of playing cards. It’s a good idea, though, to cover your work area with tin foil to catch the crumbs. See how tall your children can build their food towers before the towers fall.

Taste Tests

This is a great game for introducing your children to new foods and finding out what they really like. Set out three or four different dishes and gently blindfold the children. Have them describe what flavors they taste and rate which ones they like best. This is especially good with vegetable dishes, as it might get kids who resist them to reconsider because they might not know that it’s a vegetable dish until the blindfold comes off.

Food Game Pieces

Choose tabletop games with simple layouts for this activity. Cover the board with plastic wrap, and use slices of fruit and vegetables as pieces and rewards. This can encourage kids to persist in learning board game rules that they may otherwise give up on because they find the rules too difficult to grasp.

Recipe Puzzles

The next game helps your children learn about following cooking directions. Pick an easy recipe where the focus is on putting things together rather than on complicated procedures. Examples are side dishes, salads, one-pot meals, sandwiches, wraps, and tacos. Print the recipe out and cut out the steps so that each one is on its own strip of paper. Show your children the photo of the finished dish and the list of ingredients and then, like a puzzle, ask them to figure out the order of the steps. Then, supervise as they make it. They’ll get satisfaction from seeing and eating the finished results of the puzzle they figured out.

Recipe Scavenger Hunt

This is another game that introduces your children to the art of following cooking instructions. Hide non-sharp utensils for a recipe either around your kitchen or in another room. Have your kids retrieve each one in the order that it appears in the directions. This game also gives the memory a workout as kids will probably stumble upon some utensils out of order and have to go back for them when they appear later in the recipe. End the game by helping your children make the dish, which will teach them to appreciate the many uses of kitchen utensils.

Food Collages

Here’s a food game to encourage your children’s artistic expression. Use construction paper or even poster board for this. Set out an array of dry foods that are easy for children to work with, such as dry beans, pasta with flat sides in various colors, lentils, split peas, and rice. A liquid school glue works well for making the food stick to the paper. Also include crayons, markers, and colored pencils. You can encourage kids to create landscapes, self-portraits, animals or even a picture book.

Food Stamps

Buy some nontoxic acrylic paint in a variety of colors. Pour the paint into plates. Cut fruit such as apples, pears, oranges, and kiwis into halves and have your children dip the open part of the pieces into the paint. The kids can stamp the fruit pieces on construction paper or poster board. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini and squash with seeds and fibers removed from work as well. Encourage your kids to see images in the stamped paint. Potato slices can be cut into shapes to supplement them. For instance, if a stamped bell pepper looks like a flower, cut a thin, long potato slice to add a stem.

Pasta-and-Bean Relay

Here’s a game that gets your kids physically active with food. You’ll need an area that’s large enough for them to move around in and that you can easily sweep. Perhaps clear your kitchen of furniture or do this on your back porch. Have two children compete at a time. Set up two large storage containers on each side of the room. Pour dry pasta and beans into two of the containers. Give the competing children measuring cups, and have them scoop out pasta and beans from one large container and pour them into the empty container on the other side of the room. The player who accomplishes this first is the winner.

Kids seem to have a natural desire to play with food, so why not make it educational by planning ahead? Food games for kids can get them excited about math, recipes, scientific wonders, and artistic expression. Parents will also have fun stepping into a discovery state of mind and using food in a new way.

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