My two preschoolers love to make things with their tiny little hands. From creating chalk paintings to building block towers to mightily attempting to craft their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, these girls are happiest with busy hands.
So, I found a delicious way to help them use their hands while engaging all their sensesand filling their bellies: by creating edible foodscapes when it's time for an after-school snack. (P.S. There's nothing better than an art project that cleans itself up!)
Here are a few of our favorites – they all have a powerful combination of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, cheeses and nut butters. One of them even has chocolate!
1. Buried Treasure
Take your mind back to the beach with some buried treasure! Every kid loves a surprise, especially after a long day at school. First, cut a golden kiwifruit in half, scoop out the flesh and slice it into pieces. Then, place 10 to 15 chocolate chips at the bottom of the fruit's skin (the treasure box) and top it with the sliced kiwifruit. For more fun, add carrot slices and a small circle of cheese to the plate in the shape of the sun and O-shaped whole-grain cereal for sand.
One serving of kiwifruit has the vitamin C of three oranges and as much potassium as a banana. Carrots help provide vitamin A, which is important for your kids' vision, bone growth and immune system.
2. PB&C Pinwheels
Spread a thin layer of peanut butter across a wheat, white or corn tortilla. Sprinkle a row of 1/4 cup dried cranberries at one end. Roll the tortilla tightly and cut it into 1-inch wheels. My kids love arranging three of them on a plate to look like eyes and noses. Just make lips with slices of peppers, cucumbers or carrots and you have a complete smiley face.
Cranberries have unique compounds called PACs, which may help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections and maintain cardiovascular health.
3. Kiwi Sailboats
These snacks are assembled with just two ingredients: golden kiwifruit and hard cheese. Cut a kiwi lengthwise (the boat) and cut two triangles of cheese to act as the sails. Simply place one end of a toothpick into the cheese sails and the other end into the kiwifruit to create a sailboat.
Cheese is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, which helps kids build strong and healthy bones.
4. Tuna Fish 'Crabs'
You can make a cute crab sandwich with tuna and apple salad. Just combine tuna fish, mayonnaise and cut-up apple in a bowl, then spoon it inside a croissant. Use a toothpick with an olive cut in half for each eye. This one is delicious. (Read: a great snack to share with your child.)
Tuna is a great food to introduce to young kids so they build a love for fish, which offers protein and omega-3 fats.
5. Kiwi Sunflowers
Add a little sunshine to kids' days by slicing a kiwifruit in half width-wise. Use half as the sunflower center and cut the other half into six triangular pieces (the petals). After placing the pieces around like a flower, use cut celery stalks for the stem and leaves of the sunflower. For added protein, microwave 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and drizzle it on the plate to create the roots of the flower.
Get creative with your kids and come up with your own food art. Try to play off their personal interests in food, animals and everything in between. Think about ways you can turn hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, fruits, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios and other foods into pretty designs your kids will love to eat.