Four Fun Food Art Projects That Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy
Do they make faces when asked to eat their fruits and vegetables?
Here’s a fun way to encourage your kids to make faces (and other creative things) with healthy foods instead of at them.
And they may be more likely to eat the good stuff.
In this article I’ll show you how to make four fun and easy food art projects your kids will love to create and to gobble up.
Why Food Art?
Food art is a simple way to increase the appeal of healthy food to your kids by making eating fun.
As a pediatric dietitian nutritionist, I have done many food experiments with kids. One fact has stood out loud and clear: Make nutrition into a game and they will play. And they will eat! They’ll eat because it’s part of the game and there’s no pressure to eat for “real.”
I bet you’ve got a story similar to this. You’ve probably seen it from your kids, too.
My mom’s a great cook. When I was a kid, she hardly ever forced me to eat anything I didn’t want to. Until one night when I was 7.
“It’s asparagus, Angela,” she said. “You will love it. I want you to take one bite.”
I sat looking at my plate of smelly, mushy green trees. Saliva flooded my mouth. My heart started to pound. I cried dramatically under the pressure to eat it. Finally, realizing that she wouldn’t let me leave the table without a taste, I closed my eyes and took a bite.
Bleh! After a few chews and a pathetic shriek I spit the asparagus into my napkin.
You see, I had decided that the asparagus tasted horrendous before I even put it in my mouth. It was a lost cause.
That’s because most children are very visual when it comes to food acceptance. Food must look good. Food must not be ugly, slimy or stinky, which was everything that the asparagus was to me at 7 years old.
The Food Art Experiment
I wanted to test whether making healthy food more fun and more visually appealing would make it more palatable to kids, so I recruited the help of my two children and two neighbor kids.
I told them we were doing an experiment with food and asked, “Would food taste better if it looked fun? Let’s have fun with food and find out!”
Enter food art, a way to tantalize kids’ wonderfully creative minds.
It worked! 4 out of 4 kids not only had fun making sculptures out of food, but enjoyed eating it afterwards, too.
I hope that you and your kids will enjoy the following 4 food art projects as much as we did.
Safety tip: These projects require cutting with sharp kitchen knives. Make sure an adult does the cutting! Then let the kids get creative and have fun putting the food art together.
The goal for this activity is to enjoy fruits and vegetables more and have fun in the process.
Prepare yourself! Kids:
- will be messy
- will probably not follow the step-by-step instructions
- may decide to change/add to their creations
This is all ok. Guidelines are provided for each art project, but different creations may result from your experience. That is perfectly fine.
I suggest that you create the projects yourself, along with your kids. This will help you resist the urge to “help” or to “show them the right way,” which will only create anxiety and frustration for them.
Three of the four projects featured here are custom creations. I found the other one on Pinterest. If your kids enjoy making food art, Pinterest is a great source for finding more project ideas.
Food Art Project #1: Veggie Face
After you complete this project, it becomes the perfect snack or appetizer with the dip contained inside.
This project features red pepper hummus, which has a tendency to be well-liked by children (more than regular-flavored hummus) because of its sweet flavor.
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 2 slices of cucumber + 1 piece for mouth
- 4 baby carrots
- 2 pieces cauliflower
- 2-3 pieces broccoli
- 1 red pepper
- 12-ounce container of red pepper hummus*
- Kitchen knife
- Cutting board
Rinse vegetables with cool running water and pat dry.
Cut the top off of the yellow pepper with the paring knife. Clear out the seeds inside.
Cut ear and nose pieces from the curved parts of the red bell pepper.
Place toothpicks in the yellow bell pepper where the eyes, ears and mouth will go. Attach face parts to the toothpicks.
Spoon hummus into the yellow bell pepper until full to the pepper rim.
Place the carrots, cauliflower and broccoli into the hummus.
Alternate suggestions: Guacamole, cream cheese or Ranch dressing would also taste yummy inside the bell pepper. Have your kids try different dips with the veggies and see which one they prefer.
Food Art Project #2: Berry’s Nanamobile
This is a super-easy project that even the littlest kids can do.
Older children can get more creative with the car and driver. They can make the wheels and face on the strawberry more detailed, add headlights, or any other variation they can think of.
The only rule is that they must use all fruits and vegetables!
- 1 long banana
- 1 strawberry
- 1 kiwi (peeled and sliced)
- 1 raisin (for eyes)
- Whipped cream
- Kitchen knife
- Cutting board
Peel banana and push 2 toothpicks through for the wheels.
Peel and slice kiwi. Place 4 slices on the toothpicks as wheels.
Wash the strawberry and pat dry. With a paring knife, drill 2 small holes 1 centimeter deep into the strawberry for the eyes.
Cut a raisin to size to make 2 eyes and place in the strawberry.
Use a paring knife to make a small hole in the banana where the strawberry will sit. Place the strawberry in the hole so it does not move or fall out easily.
Use whipped cream to “glue” the strawberry in place and as a topper decoration.
Food Art Project #3: Prehistoric Palm Tree
Tip: This project (and all of the others) calls for lots of vegetables and fruits. Visit your local farmers market for great prices on fresh produce. What another great food adventure to do with your kids!
- 1 cucumber
- 2 each of grape tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower
- 6-8 ounces of guacamole
- 1 ramekin
- Optional: plastic dinosaur
- Kitchen knife
- Cutting board
Wash vegetables under cool running water and pat dry.
Peel cucumber and cut ends off, leaving it about 5 inches long. To make the bark on your tree, cut small wedges out of the cucumber trunk: Using your knife, cut down into the cucumber at an angle about ½ inch in 2 places next to each other so it forms a slim triangle removed from the cucumber. Do this 2 times on each side.
Place several toothpicks into the top of the smaller end. Place grape tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower on the toothpicks, creating your palm branches.
Fill a ramekin 1/2 to 3/4 full of guacamole. Place the palm tree into the center of the guacamole and press down so it stays in place.
Decorate as desired with plastic dinosaurs.
Food Art Project #4: Tasty Bugs
Kids will have fun making this snail from food. Check the Meals website to learn how to make more cute food bugs: ladybug, caterpillar and butterfly.
- 1 red apple
- 1 stalk celery
- Shredded carrot
- A few kernels of corn
- 1 raisin
- Creamy peanut butter
- 1 sealable plastic sandwich bag
- Kitchen knife
Spoon peanut butter into a sealable plastic sandwich bag. Seal bag and cut a very small tip off one corner of the bottom of the bag. Squeeze peanut butter into corner of the bag and use to dispense peanut butter, like frosting from a piping bag.
Unsure how to make and use a Ziploc piping bag? Watch this video for a demonstration.
Wash fruits and vegetables under cool running water and pat dry.
Cut a thick vertical slice from a whole red apple, just missing the core.
Cut a celery stick about 1 inch (2.5 cm) longer than the width of the apple slice.
Fill the trough of the celery stick with peanut butter and set aside.
Using the plastic bag filled with peanut butter, draw a spiral on both sides of the apple slice.
Wedge the apple slice into the filled celery stick.
Decorate the snail’s shell (the red band of apple peel) with corn.
Cut a raisin into small pieces to make eyes. Stick into peanut butter at one end of the celery stick.
Add two carrot shreds for antennae.
Now that you’ve made your snail, go on a snail hunt! See if you can match your tasty creation with the real thing.
Some Final Thoughts…
How did you do with these projects? My fab four testing group had fun and were very eager to eat their art.
Keep your kids in the kitchen creating all types of dishes. Whether it’s food art or just a family recipe, the more they’re part of the process, the more they’ll appreciate a variety of foods and flavors.
What do you think? What’s your most memorable food memory growing up? And how did it shape the way you eat today? Please post comments and pictures of your family’s food art projects below.