10 Fabulous Food Play Ideas for Children: A Roundup!

10 Fabulous Food-Play Ideas for You & Your Children

As a new parent, you first tell your kids to STOP putting things in their mouth. Then, as your kids get older, you find yourself cajoling them at the dinner table, “Put a little bit in your mouth and swallow. Just try it. Please? For me?”

Sheesh! What’s a parent to do?

Today, we at Melissa & Doug are sharing some great ideas to bring the FUN back to FOOD, like festive summer-time treats, healthy year-round snacks, food play (with real and pretend foods), food-related learning activities, and much more!

So without further ado, here’s our list of 10 fabulous FOOD PLAY IDEAS for you and your children:

  1. Host an ICE CREAM-Themed Play Date!

Host an Ice-Cream Themed Play Date!

Nothing says “summer” like ice cream. There’s still time to host an Ice-Cream Social at your house for friends or neighbors. If little ones are coming, set up an outdoor “Ice-Cream Parlor” and let kids make their own real ice cream in a bag (instructions included in the full post). When the fall weather creeps in, set up an “Ice-Cream Station” indoors using Cloud Dough and host an Ice-Cream Play Date. Kids can also use our Scoop & Stack Ice Cream Cone Playset and/or the Sand Ice Cream Set for ice-cream fun year-round. Get FREE ice-cream printables, craft/activity ideas, & instructions for making real ice-cream in a bag in Kim Vij’s full post: Hosting an Ice-Cream-Themed Play Date!

  1. Teach Your Child about FOOD GROUPS

Teach Your Child About Food Groups!

This post is a great, easy way to get started teaching kids about food groups, portion sizes, and nutrition. One tip? Use your weekly food flyer from the grocery store to have your child cut and sort food groups! {Easy & smart, eh?} Get printable food group labels, learn to make a food-group book, and link over to the USDA’s “My Plate” printable coloring page to help kids easily see recommended portion sizes — plus get lots more activity ideas in the post “Tips for Teaching Your Child About Food Groups.”

  1. Have Fun with Food: LEARNING IN THE KITCHEN with Kids

Fun with Food: Having Fun with Your Kids in the Kitchen

Blog Ambassador Amy Mascott (of Teach Mama) provides this WHOPPER of a post filled with TONS of ideas for practicing counting, sorting, pattern making, reading, researching & much more as kids create homemade dog treats, candy sushi, veggie kabobs, licorice shapes, & many more cute and clever snacks and food-related activities. Your kids will love watching these kitchen creations come to life! (And if you’re not ready for the mess or danger of Amy’s cutting/sorting activities, use our play food resources to re-create these ideas using life-like toy food stand-ins.) Check out all of Amy’s great kitchen-fun learning ideas in her full post “Have Fun with Food: Learning in the Kitchen with Kids.”

  1. Don’t Save ALL the Healthy Foods for Your Kids — YOU Can Have Some, Too!

Don't save all the fruits & veggies for your kids - Have some yourself

Are you taking time to rinse and cut up beautiful fruits and vegetables, but then feel the need to “save” them for your little ones? Don’t let your own nutrition suffer by saving the best foods for your kids. YOU need some nourishment, too! Get Blog Ambassador Tiffany Dahle’s (Peanut Blossom) tips for helping to keep your nutritional needs in perspective in her full “Forbidden Fruit” post here (part of our Taking Care of You series). And if you still need to get rid of your guilt, let your kiddos play with some beautiful food toys, while you enjoy the real thing!

  1. Encourage Healthy Eating with a “KID’S RESTAURANT”

Create a Kid-Friendly Play Restaurant

Guest Blogger Katie Heap of Live Craft Eat walks you through creating a Kid-Friendly Restaurant — complete with costumes, props, and her FREE printable menus she created to correlate to our Felt Play Food Sets: Sandwich, Pizza, and Taco & Burrito. In addition to learning about food prep and nutrition, your child will build fine-motor development, communication, thinking skills, and more! It’s all here in Katie’s post: “Encourage Healthy Eating with a Kid’s Restaurant.”

  1. Our Readers’ Top Tips for Getting Kids to EAT THEIR VEGGIES

Parents' Top Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies

We asked parents on our Facebook page to share their tips on getting more veggies into their children’s diets… and more importantly, into their MOUTHS. This post reveals some of the clever — and sometimes downright STEALTHY — food-prep ideas parents shared with us in “Parents’ Corner Question: “How do you get your KIDS to eat their VEGGIES?” (HINT: Playing with those “unknown” veggies first can be a great way to get kids familiar with them so they’ll try the real deal. Check out our Play Food toys and games here.)

  1. PLAY COOKIES: Golden-Brown Every Time

Play Cookies for big-time fun

Blog Ambassador Zina Harrington (Lasso the Moon) gives you 5 ways to make “cookie play” educational — from memory/writing skill development by letting children fill a “cookie order” to math practice like adding or decomposing numbers. See how Zina’s simple, sweet activities can make some great family memories in your home too in her post: “Golden-Brown Every Time.”

  1. FOODIE Ideas

Foodie Ideas for Kids

This foodie post has tips for baking with kids, packing lunches for school, and teaching kids what makes a balanced, nutritious meal. Helping your kids become familiar with a variety of foods will give them confidence with trying new things in — and outside of — the kitchen! Read our Foodie Roundup here.

  1. Turn Your Cellar Space into a CHILD-FRIENDLY MARKETPLACE

Turn your cellar space into an indoor play marketplace

This clever idea was shared with us by a devoted dad who turned an unused space in his cellar into an inviting Marketplace play area for his daughters. Inspired by ideas on Pinterest, he and his wife created a custom-built play space like no other for their two young girls. See the results of this food-themed playscape in the post “Turn Your Cellar Space into a Marketplace.”

  1. FREE PRINTABLE: Healthy-Eating SHOPPING LIST for Kids

FREE Printable Shopping list from Melissa & Doug

Blog Ambassador Zina Harrington (Lasso the Moon) suggests that on your next trip to the store or farmer’s market, you let your little one carry their own shopping bag and list. Print a FREE copy of our kid-friendly customizable shopping list before you next head out the door to keep kids engaged and learning while you shop and meal-plan. Get the link to this FREE printable list in Zina’s full post: “Healthy-Eating Shopping List for Kids.”


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Check out our popular food-themed Pinterest boards for even more great ideas:

Play food… What an easy tip for Creative Play – Every Day!

Got a play food idea or activity of your own? Let us know! Tell us about it or share a picture on Instagram (tag it #MelissaAndDoug or @MelissaAndDougToys), our Facebook page, or in the Comments below.