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Teaching table manners seems to be an ongoing challenge for parents. Sit down. Sit up. Chew with your mouth closed. Use your fork. Eat your veggies. Stop slurping. No burping! Don’t reach across the table! Where’s your napkin? DON’T PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! Ahhhhhh…..kids will be kids.

Kids are so creative and carefree, where some of us (ahem! me!) get bound up by rules, that we forget to make the routine parts of life more fun. Perhaps every now and then, we could let kids be kids, and let them play with their food?

The effort that we put into meals is determined by several things – time, passion for cooking, finances, or kitchen skills. And for a lot of people, meals are prepared out of necessity so quickly become mundane and predictable. No wonder kids get bored at the table!

Summer is a great time to pick a meal once a week to think outside the box and let kids play – as in design, create, fashion, and form – with their food. Bring lunch outside to the picnic table or to the park, to make it even more relaxed and fun – and leave the crumbs outside!

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What you need

Veggies: green beans, peas, peppers, broccoli, cucumber, cherry tomatoes – sliced

Fruits: strawberries, grapes, berries, apple wedges, orange sections.

Use small cookie cutters to cut shapes into melons and pineapple.

Grains – crackers or pretzels with a

variety of sizes and shapes,

slice of bread, oatmeal flakes

Protein – hardboiled eggs slices, cheese cubes, nuts, Canadian bacon, pepperoni

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Prep all the food, place in small dishes in the center of the table, and give each child a plate. Some kids will just dive in, some might need a kickstart. Giving them a theme such as ‘zoo animals’, ‘underwater scene’, or ‘vehicle’ might help them get rolling. Look at Google images for ‘play with your food’ or peek at Pinterest for some epic design ideas. There are even entire cookbooks written on this topic.

Now that they’ve got their lunch made, it’s time to eat! Somehow a green bean as a blade of grass or a pepper slice as a lock of hair goes down much easier than if they were just in a boring pile.

Maybe even us adults should join the fun and play with our food once in a while!

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