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31 Days Challenge- Day 27: Use Play to Encourage Good Eating Habits

27 January 2012

My kids replicate what they see and experience when they're playing. But, this also works in reverse, they tend to replicate, in real life, what they have done while playing.

With that in mind, we can encourage healthy eating habits but encouraging our kids to engage in "play," about healthy eating.

*If your kids have a play kitchen, have them "play," that they are cooking and eating healthy foods. You can take their play food and set up a store, then have them "shop," for healthy foods. They can also use dolls who they can "teach," and "feed,"healthy foods.  You can join in the fun by pretending to eat foods that you child may not eat in real life. Say, "Yum, this broccoli is sooo good, you have to try." Likely your child will pretend to eat the healthy foods and this may translate, eventually to trying it for real.

*Use play dough or clay to make healthy foods. If your kids are slightly older, they may enjoy making small foods to use in a dollhouse.

*Create a game where you use clip art of various foods that you print out on cards, then play a game where the kids pick a card out of a bag, or flip over a card and earn points for healthy foods and lose points for unhealthy foods.

*Encourage your older child to play "teacher," and teach younger siblings or friends about healthy eating.

*Take an older child to the store and provide them with a scavenger hunt. Challenge them to find one food from each of the food groups, or give them a list with unusual fruits or vegetables and challenge them to find them. You could also give them a label reading challenge: Find a bread with 100% whole wheat and no high fructose corn syrup, Find a drink that contains no added sugar, Find a yogurt with the most protein and least sugar, find a cereal with less than 5 grams of sugar, etc.

There are also a variety of web sites that have games about nutrition. To be honest, I was disappointed with many of them. Some were boring or difficult to play, others didn't necessarily line up with my own interpretation of "healthy."

Here are a few of the better ones:

Analyze My Plate
For older children- Drag various foods to the plate to make a balanced meal. Analyzer tool calculates the amount of fat, calories, and fruits and vegetables.

Dole 5 A Day- Games, Songs, Comics, Videos

Food Champs- Games, Printable Activity Sheets, Coloring Sheets, and Recipes

Nourish Interactive- For some reason very slow on my computer, but comes highly recommended from Lynda at Health in Him.

What Ideas do you have for using Play to Encourage Good Eating Habits?


  1. I've got to work on getting my 2 year old to start eating better. She is so picky right now. Thanks for the tips.


    1. Picky eating is so common in 2 year olds! Don't get discouraged, it's a behavior thing more than a "food thing." I plan to write a few posts specifically about toddlers/ preschoolers in the next few weeks so be sure to stop back!

  2. I sometimes let my son "create" dishes in the kitchen for us to eat as a family. I posted about one of his creations here: I think he eats better/healthier when he prepares the foods that we eat. Having a well-stocked kitchen of healthy foods, with very little "junk", lets him have access to all the food without a bunch of restrictions. My husband is a bodybuilder so at 3 years of age our son was already talking about "good proteins". It is what kids see their parents do/eat that makes this biggest impact on their own choices.

    1. It's so true. When they've created they food it tastes "so much better," to them! My daughter a while ago created "her salad," both she and my son like it better than any other salad even though it contains red peppers, which, in any other context, she'll say she doesn't really like!


Please add your questions, comments, and suggestions so that we can all learn from each other!

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