Play with your food

Sometimes a little fun and games is all that’s needed to make children want to eat their veggies.

We call it a “pupu platter,” but it has nothing to do with a plate of assorted Chinese meat and seafood bites. Instead, it’s a playful meal that gets my daughter to eat copious amounts of vegetables.

One day last spring, our plans to have a picnic outside were dashed by a pop-up thunderstorm. Not wanting to disappoint my 2-year-old, I tried something different. I told her I was making her a pupu platter — and she giggled. The platter consisted of bite-sized carrots, avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, radishes and pine nuts — no, none of them touched one another. I then put together a little bowl of balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. We laid down a “table cloth” on a large pillow and ate it together with our fingers … on the couch!

A year later, this is still her favorite meal. I mix it up with crackers, hummus or a little meat, but the concept is still the same (and we now usually eat at the dinner table). I think this strategy works because my daughter associates eating vegetables with something special she does with Mom. The name, the finger food and the dipping sauce all contribute to the fun.

Eating hard-boiled eggs is another fun event at our house. The mere choice to let her peel her own egg (she has been doing it, albeit painstakingly slowly, since before she turned 2) and put on her own toppings (salt, pepper and turmeric) has made egg-eating a treat for her!

— Sarah M.

Many kids like “frogs on a log” — i.e., raisins and cream cheese on celery. While my kids never took to that particular “recipe,” they loved to pop open their fresh sugar snap pea “boats” to count the “pea-ssengers” inside (which made them seek out the longest, fattest pea pods). We also used to have dinnertime competitions to see who could crunch their carrot loudest. On one memorable rainy day, I gave them a plate of hulled strawberries and sliced carrots so that they could make “umbrellas.”

— Whitney R.

The only way my son will eat broccoli or broccoli rabe is if my husband and I pretend the florets are trees and we are dinosaurs eating the trees. There is a lot of roaring at dinner. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we will keep it up as long as it works.

— Kelly C.


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