Learning through play with food

Have fun practising various learning concepts with your little ones at snack time or dinnertime by counting, sorting, and making shapes! Encouraging play in this way can help children engage with their food, entertain them during mealtimes and provide learning opportunities.

Ideas for playing with and preparing food with kids

  • Put pieces of fruit or veg into piles and then count them together. How many blueberries are there here? How many cucumber slices can you count?
  • Once you’ve counted each pile, work out which one has the most and which one has the least. “Which pile has the highest number? Which pile has the lowest number?” Remember to keep it simple!
  • After your child has eaten one or two from each pile – count again!
  • Ask your child to find a certain food from a mixed plate, for example: can you find a piece of carrot?
  • Form simple shapes by putting items of food together to make a circle, a triangle, a square and so on.
  • Sort items by their colours – put all the orange foods together, all the blue, all the red.
  • Make patterns in a line on the table – one blueberry, one grape and one raspberry… one blueberry, one grape, and one raspberry.
  • Use small breadsticks to form letters.
  • Ask your child to help you choose what snacks to put out and get them involved by asking questions. There are three of us having a snack right now: “Do we have enough, or should we put out some more?”
  • Get them to help you divide up the food onto plates to make it fair.
  • Ask them to help you with simple tasks such as buttering a cracker or cutting up soft fruit with a butter knife.
  • Let your child help to lay the table.
  • Using a small jug and beaker, let your child choose and pour their own drink.
All these tasks should be fun and light-hearted – your child isn’t being tested. They are simply being given opportunities to think of snack and meal times differently and engage their minds. Basic counting activities will help them understand numbers and very simple sums. Playing with shapes and colours encourages recognition. Asking a child to consider others at mealtimes allows them a chance to practice fairness and sharing and involving them in simple, safe tasks will help build their confidence and hand dexterity.

3+ years
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