Make Mealtime Fun

Do you have trouble getting your child to try vegetables or finish his lunch? One way to entice her to eat healthier foods is to increase the fun factor. Try these simple, creative ideas for turning everyday meals into animals, games, faces, and more.

Give a Squeeze

Fill squeeze bottles with anything pourable -- BBQ sauce, fruit sauce, ketchup, or salad dressing -- then draw pictures and write notes to the kids.

Express Yourself With dipping sauce, squirt "I Love You" on the plate, next to chicken nuggets and vegetables.

Shake Up the Salad Serve dressing in a squeeze bottle, and let the kids have fun squirting it onto a healthy mix of lettuce and vegetable slices.

Be a Star Form the points of a star on a plate with asparagus tips, and fill the center with assorted veggies. Draw an outline around the star with ranch dressing.

Create a Critter

Children love animals of all kinds -- they'll be charmed by these adorable creatures.

Turkey Turtles Fold a round slice of turkey in half. Pipe green ketchup over the slice in a block pattern. Add a cherry-tomato head and asparagus-tip legs to complete the turtle transformation.

Cat and Mouse Make a cat's-face sandwich with round bread, ham slices, and white cheese; add black-olive eyes and a red-pepper nose with chive whiskers.

Transform a hard-boiled egg into a whimsical mouse by adding radish ears, olive eyes, a carrot nose, and a celery tail.

Next: Be a Cut Up

Be a Cut Up

Cookie cutters are great for shaping sandwiches, cheese slices, and lunch meats. 

Celestial Sandwich With a sharp knife or a cookie cutter, make a crescent moon and several stars to turn a lunchtime sandwich such as PB&J into fun-shaped bites.

The Farmer in the Deli Use farm-animal cookie cutters to cut out animal-shaped open-faced sandwiches, which look great with lettuce for grass and a French-dressing sun.

Teach a Lesson

Learning can be fun when the lesson tastes good.

Time to Eat Use a round 8" flour tortilla to create a clock face with cheese-stick hands; cut veggie slices for numbers, and place trimmed cherry tomatoes at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock.

Feeling Faces Using slices of veggies, show four feelings that toddlers recognize: happy, angry, sad, and surprised.

Tic-Tac-Toe Create a tic-tac-toe board with green squeeze ketchup, carrot sticks for X's, and cherry tomatoes for O's.

Pizza Puzzle Heat up a Boboli pizza with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and mozzarella. Using a pizza wheel, make random-shaped slices, and slightly scramble the pieces to create a puzzle that your child can put back together.

Next: Make a Scene

Make a Scene

Meat-Loaf Forest Carve meat loaf into the shape of a house, and decorate with ketchup; place amid a forest of broccoli trees popping out of mashed potatoes.

More Fun Ideas

Under the Sea Create a seascape with baked fish sticks; make waves with ketchup or mayo, and add lettuce for seaweed.

Sail-Away Sandwich Cut a grilled-cheese sandwich diagonally, and stand triangles on end to look like sails. Form apple slices at base into a boat shape, and attach to a carrot-stick dock.

Go Mini Kids will eat up miniature versions of foods that perfectly fit their little hands.

Bite-Size Burgers Using small rolls, serve mini Western cheeseburger patties with star-shaped cheese slices for sheriffs' badges.

Pint-Size Pups Turn cocktail franks into delicious minidoggies with a thin-pretzel-stick tail and legs.

Itsy-Bitsy Ham-and-Cheese Sandwich Serve up a ham-and-cheese sandwich using soft party rye or whole-wheat slices of bread cut into minitriangles.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the June 2001 issue of Parents magazine.

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