Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Build a sandwich

 Activities with little ones don't have to take a lot of time to set up, or be very arty or scientific.  Here's a really simple idea that could transform your mealtimes into a fun interactive experience.

Instead of making a healthy sandwich for my boys, only to despair when they open them up and tip out half the contents, I decided to put the ball in their court and get them to make their own sarnies.  I sliced up some favourite fillers such as cucumber and cheese and helped the boys to spread their butter, then left them to build whatever they fancied.  I had envisioned that Ollie would patiently stack item on item between two slices of bread as he does over and over with his play food.  However he quickly decided that since he was in charge of his sandwich, he'd eat it his way, and follow fashion with a deconstructed dish.  So he ate the middle out of the bread first (after carefully removing the tomato as he 'couldn't see the butter'), then munched
his way bit by bit through a mound of other ingredients.  Toby plumped for rolling his bread over cheese and cucumber slices, then demolishing it fajita style, followed by sitting on my knee and shoving lettuce in my mouth faster than I could swallow it.  However they got there, the outcome was that both boys got a big helping of healthy food that they might otherwise have fussed over.

This is a good activity for developing creativity and decision making skills, as well as involving lots of sensory stimulation in seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling the different foods.  You can use it to develop language skills by directing questions throughout the meal to encourage your kids to describe what they're experiencing, name the food types, and think about their favourite tastes, smells or colours.

An added bonus is that any time you can spend with your children where you are preparing and eating food together helps to banish food fears and fussy eating.  Kids will eat pretty much anything if they've had a hand in making it themselves.  You are also priming your kids to avoid prepackaged convenience foods later in life when they see food preparation as something fun and communal rather than just domestic drudgery. You might even come up with a killer sandwich recipe you wouldn't have dreamed could work (peanut butter is awesome with salad!).