Summer is here and we all have our favorite summer foods – meat on the grill, fresh corn on the cob, berries and other fresh fruits. Summer is also a wonderful time to be creative with food for kids of all ages and to get them to try new things. From trips to the farmer’s market to harvesting a backyard garden, there are a ton of ways to introduce children to the variety of nutritious foods available in the summer. The next time you are in the fruit and vegetable section, let the children pick out a new food to try. Here are some other age appropriate activities to help children learn about food and nutrition.
Toddlers like to play with food and it teaches them fine motor skills. So, it’s fun to transform eating healthy a craft project. Cut various fruits and vegetables into different shapes and let the children create art on their plate. You can use various things for the base – try bagels which can bet cut and laid out to form a “snake” and decorated with cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Then, take a picture to show off their work! While creating and after it’s complete – let the kids dive in a try the various parts of their art project!
Preschool children can create their own shapes, letters, and numbers from various fruits and vegetables. Grab the cookie cutters (the metal kind are best) and make stars from pineapple slices and hearts from watermelon. Use wooden skewers and create ‘stick people’ or kabobs from apple slices, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes. When grilling, let the kids pick the vegetables that will be grilled with the meat so they each have their own personalized veggie side. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables they picked out.
Older children usually love smoothies. Have a selection of fruits and vegetables available. Encourage the children to try new combinations and analyze the ingredients with respect to nutrients to develop healthier smoothies that they love to drink. Carrot juice may sound funny to kids but when mixed with bananas and strawberries, it can add some healthy nutrients to the natural sugars in the fruit. Not all smoothies have to be sweet and full of fruit. Encourage the use of vegetables such spinach and kale to increase the nutritional value and expose the children to different tastes.
Everyone loves dessert and summer is the best time for frozen goodies! Home-made ice cream is always a huge hit and each person can add their own toppings. You can also make your own yogurt pops with berries or nuts. Fresh lemonade can be frozen as well as low sugar grape juice. Let them freeze and enjoy a special cold treat on a hot summer day.
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