DIY Play (with your food)

My three-year-old is steadily sharpening his food palette and it made a mom proud when he asked for “baby carrots” for breakfast the other day. I thought to myself, “Is this a trick?” But instead of second guessing his request, I simply grabbed a carrot. He responded by kindly asking for three more. Inside I was thoroughly overjoyed, but on the outside, I played it cool by simply nodding and acting as if this was a completely normal everyday request.

I then went on to acknowledge how supportive I was of his healthy food choice. But before I could finish the praise, he asked for celery; then followed with a request for cranberries. Certainly this wasn’t my three-year-old in the kitchen early that morning asking me for vegetables and fruits. Surely, this was some kind of anomaly, or weird out-of-body experience (for both him and I). Granted, we do eat healthy as a family and I’ve worked hard to teach and encourage my boys to develop healthy eating habits. But who knew my three-year-old would show this much initiative at such a young age on such a random day. It was a rare display of sophistication that I welcomed with elation and simultaneous awe.

With shapes of pale green, bright orange, and maroon, my three-year-old had single-handedly made me so proud in that moment as he filled his open hands with a rainbow of vitamins and nutrients. But it didn’t stop there. “Look at my feast!” he exclaimed. “I see it,” I said, “Tasty.” “Yes, it’s tasty mom,” he said. And as he took bite after bite of his fruit and vegetables, he began to sculpt his feast, playing with his food as appetizer, munching on pretend castles, slides, sailboats, and coins. He not only made terrific healthy food choices that morning, he had fun, as he played his way through eating each crunchy, chewy bite.

Whose suggested kids not play with their food? I suppose I don’t see the big deal as long as they are curious and eating. It was in that play that he explored texture, shape, and taste. It was in that play that he took his time eating, making different pairings along with different pretend scenarios. It was cute, but it was also him building his taste palette, making good food choices on his own. Besides, I’ll take a little play with a lot of healthy eating any day.

Happy Friday, I hope my three-year-old inspires you to eat a bit healthier today and everyday. I’m going to go grab a few carrots right now.

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