Go ahead — play with your food! Keep kids busy with table-top activities

Posted July 28, 2011, at 1:10 p.m.
Last modified July 28, 2011, at 5:24 p.m.
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Here is a week’s worth of craft projects using food from your cupboards and fridge. These projects help develop kids’ fine motor skills and attention spans. Fruits and vegetables used here make for healthy snacking; limit your children’s intake of crackers and candies.

Monday: Building with gumdrops

You will need a bag or two of gumdrops and a box of wooden toothpicks – the thicker kind with points at both ends are best. Start your kids off by helping them build a simple triangle. Build from there by adding more toothpicks and more gumdrops. See if they can build a structure strong enough to hold up a book or two. For extra fun, have them build a new structure based on squares and see which is stronger. How about toothpicks and mini-marshmallows? Cherry tomatoes? For younger children, cut up plastic straws and use large sized marshmallows to build safely.

Tuesday: Sandwich masterpieces

Here’s a way to make sandwiches anything but boring! Set out four cups of milk and add a few drops of food coloring to each cup. Take clean, new paintbrushes and let the kids paint designs or pictures on the bread. Start with simple dots and lines then have them work their way up to more complicated designs. Toast the bread lightly to firm it up, then make sandwiches and eat! The colored milk will keep for 2 to 3 days in covered containers in the refrigerator; just be sure to wash the brushes well between painting sessions.

Wednesday: Vegetable creations

Having a tough time getting kids to eat their veggies? Get some help from these crazy critters! Start with a few fresh green beans. Make scary serpents by dabbing sunflower seeds or crisp rice cereal into whipped cream cheese or peanut butter and attaching to the beans for eyes.

Next, try a Mr. Tomato Head — slice the top off a small tomato and scoop out the insides. Have your child fill the head with corn and peas. Using peanut butter or cream cheese, attach two peas for eyes, corn for a nose, and celery slices for a mouth and ears. The reserved tomato top makes a fine hat.

Or create a scenic vegetable landscape. Make a low-fat salad dressing “lake” and surround it with broccoli trees, quartered red-pepper boats, cherry tomato beach balls. Use a vegetable peeler to make long carrot curls for decorations, then dip away!

Thursday: Fun with fruit

Build a banana bug. Have your child peel a banana and hold it curved ends up on a plate. Poke small pretzel sticks into each side, angled down toward the plate to make legs. How many legs can fit on each side? Two more pretzels make antennae. Now use peanut butter or cream cheese to stick raisins, grapes, or blueberries to the body.

For fruit faces, start with a thin slice of apple on a plate. With cream cheese or peanut butter, add eyes, nose, mouth and ears out of raisins, grapes, cherries, berries, or bananas. Who can make the silliest? The scariest? The prettiest? Take pictures!

Or try a cookie cutter fruit salad. Lay slices of larger fruit like melons on a cutting board and use standard-sized cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Slices of smaller fruits like apples or pears can be done with the smaller cookie cutters, and then decorated with cream cheese or peanut butter and raisins or berries.

Friday: Cracker-box palace

Here’s a way to use up all your snack cracker odds and ends. Place all the remnants is a large bowl. Set your child up with a cookie sheet, a jar of peanut butter and a butter knife and have him build a castle or small village. Square crackers make great walls or a roof. Round ones can stack to be towers, and smaller crackers can be added as doors and windows. Decorate the castle with dry cereal, cheese bits, or candies, then storm the castle for a snack! Be sure to video tape a guided tour of the finished product before it’s eaten!

Cathy Strasser is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience working in the school system. She lives in Sugar Hill, N.H., with her husband. Visit her website at www.cathystrasser.com .

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