Me, Myself, and Food
George Bernard Shaw once said, “We use a mirror to see our face, and the arts to see our soul.” What would happen if we used food to make our face and to feed our soul? You and your child can explore artistic and creative food activities in your kitchen as a means of exploring creative thinking, problem solving, and self-expression. You just might be surprised to see what you create together!
Make Your Face
My Salad, My Self
Make Your Face and Eat It, Too!
Teachers often think of cooking as a science or math activity, but cooking is also an artistic experience. Just ask any chef! The art can be in the arranging or presentation of the ingredients on the plate. In this activity your child uses familiar foods to create a self-portrait. It might be fun to bring a hand mirror to the kitchen so he can refer to his own face as he uses foods to create his image.
What you need:
- Hair: cooked spaghetti (try whole wheat or spinach for the color), alfalfa or bean sprouts, or carrot curls
- Eyes: green or black olive slices, cherry tomatoes (halved), or cucumber slices
- Nose: cheese slice, round or oval crackers, small lettuce leaf
- Mouth: apple slices, half an orange, or pineapple slice
- Invite your child to look in the mirror to identify the different parts of his face he wants to represent with food.
- Set out the foods you will be using on small plates. Do not define them as “hair,” “eyes,” “nose,” or “mouth.” Instead, ask questions that invite him to use his own ideas. You might ask, “What food could you use to make your hair? Your eyes? Your nose?”
- Encourage your child to think “outside the plate” by looking together in the refrigerator or cabinets and asking “What other foods can we use to make a picture of your face?”
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Chocolate Scratchboard Cookies
Do you remember the fun of scratchboard pictures in school? It is the technique of scratching a design into a dark layer of crayon to reveal a lighter layer of color. You will have to help your child create the scratchboard, but once it is done she can use a toothpick to independently scratch faces, patterns, or anything else.
What you need:
- 4 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 8–10 large graham crackers
- 8–10 tbsp. marshmallow topping
- Heat chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Your child will enjoy watching the mixture melt, and she can stir it with a long-handled spoon.
- When the chocolate has melted, stir to fully incorporate the butter. Hold the graham crackers as your child spreads a fairly thick layer of marshmallow topping on them. You may need to help her spread the topping as evenly as possible, right up to the edges. The warmth of your kitchen will help the marshmallow topping flow smoothly and become shiny.
- Show your child how to use a pastry brush (or a new, clean paintbrush) to paint the melted chocolate over the marshmallow. Try to move quickly and smoothly. The chocolate will start to harden as it cools. Encourage her to “hide” the entire white marshmallow with the brown chocolate.
- Refrigerate the cookies until the chocolate is cold and firm — about 20 minutes.
- Time to scratch off the picture! Give her a toothpick or clean, opened paper clip to reveal his picture.
My Salad, My Self
Making choices is an important way for your child to express his likes and dislikes and define himself. Mix and match favorite ingredients to create a salad bar right in your kitchen, where the entire family can express itself!
- romaine or iceberg lettuce (ripped)
- spring salad greens mix
- baby spinach
- broccoli (blanched)
- cold, cooked pasta tossed in a little oil
- cherry tomatoes
- cucumber (sliced)
- green and red pepper (strips)
- black and/or green olives
- grated cheese (such as cheddar or jack)
- a collection of favorite salad dressings
- Your child will enjoy helping you wash the vegetables. As you wash, talk about what is same and different about each veggie. Or you can talk about favorites. Encourage your child to say which ones taste best to him.
- Use individual plates or bowls for each of your salad bar ingredients. Ask your child to help you prepare each ingredient by ripping lettuces, cutting vegetables (with a plastic, serrated knife), and placing ingredients onto plates.
- Invite him to set up the ingredients in a line on the counter or table. Place salad bowls at the start of the line (at the left) and dressing choices at the end (at the right). Your child will be using the same left-to-right progression skills needed for learning how to read text on a page.
- Chow time! Encourage everyone in the family to pick and choose favorites from the salad bar to make a own salad creation.
- At the table, ask everyone to talk about what is in his personal salad. After dinner, you might provide paper and crayons for your child to draw and “write” his recipe.
Ellen Booth Church is a former professor of early childhood education, an education consultant and author.