Making cute food art is a technique feeding therapists use to encourage children to engage with healthy foods. When kids are having fun with whimsical food art, they are learning to interact with that food at a sensory level. But you don’t need to be in feeding therapy to use this strategy. I’m sharing my four-step program for making simple food art!
Step 1: Grab a Canvas
Do you know that if you present a new food with a smile on your face your kids are more likely to eat it? Let’s take that a step further and serve our children’s food ON a smiley face. Introducing the Happy Mat and Mini Mat…silicone plates with a smile! Every artist needs a canvas, and you can use these plates as yours!
- Interactive: Use the Happy Mat to make easy characters your kids will adore and want to eat! Using the above picture as an example, you could ask your child if they want to eat the robot’s antenna (sausage) or its teeth (French toast). Food art makes mealtime fun and interactive, which transforms the way kids think about new food.
- Exploration: The easiest way to introduce new foods to a hesitant eater is to use food art. Kids tend to refuse healthy looking foods, but it’s a bit harder to turn down creations that look fun (even if they are veggies)! The food art technique is a great way to teach kids to feel safe around new tastes and textures.
Step 2: Get Inspired
Parents and feeding therapists alike rave about the imaginative food art they can create on ezpz products.
- Book: If you have a Happy Mat but need some inspiration on fun and nutritious meals, we have you covered! Try using our book, Making Mealtime ezpz: Fun Ways to Fill the Happy Mat for creative ideas. It is a simple, easy-to-flip-through guide on how to make 5-minute food art meals!
Step 3: Snag Some Tools
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make mealtime more exciting for your little ones. A few tools go a long way in making meal prep short and stress free!
- Cookie Cutters: I like to use a variety of cookie cutters to make mealtime more exciting, especially for my highly distractible kiddos.
- Candy Eyes: Edible candy eyes come in a variety of colors and sizes, and many have eyelashes and/or goofy expressions. Try some candy eyes to grab your child’s attention and encourage them to eat the meal you made for them!
- Food Coloring: Colors are a powerful tool for making food creations come to life. You can use processed food coloring or make your own vibrant colors from vegetables (e.g., beets) or fruits (e.g., blackberries).
Step 4: Choose One
You don’t want to overwhelm children with an entire meal that is new to them; instead, choose one new food per meal. Here are a few ideas on how to do this successfully.
- Highlight: If you are making a fun character out of food, make the new food be the focus of the design. For example, if you pour yogurt into the eyes of the Mini Mat, you can place two blueberries (new food) for the eyeballs. When you do this, you are highlighting this new food in an amusing way and increasing the likelihood they will try it!
- Micro Bite: If your child is reluctant to try something new, I like to offer a micro bite (1 or 2 very small bites) of food. For example, the micro bites in this picture are the ‘bolts’ (pears) on the sides of the head. How fun is that?!
- Percentages: In feeding therapy, I like the new food to only be 20-25% of the meal. The Mini Mat makes the math easy, as it is portioned sized in both ounces and tablespoons. Simply use one of the eye compartments for the new food. Fill the other eye and smile sections with familiar foods you know your kids will dive into!
I hope these ideas will encourage you to try food art with your littles! If you follow us on Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll see that our community loves to use our products to make food art for their children. Join us and try your hand at simple food art too! Use the hashtags #ezpzfun #myezpzmat to send us your mealtime creations!
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz