Ingredients: photocopied drawings of food stuffs; joining words such as ‘mix’, ‘bake’, ‘wash’ (optional); backing paper; glue and pens

The Big Sell: Let’s make our own recipe… Then cook it!

Strategy: Here’s a simple, open arts activity that can introduce a 3+ year old to several arts skills at once, in addition to an adventurous approach for fussy eaters.

1) Introduce your child to the concept of a ‘recipe’ by showing them your own cookery books at home or letting them watch you cook.
2) Create some simple labelled drawings of food stuffs, photocopy and cut out (or let your child cut out to improve their scissor skills)
3) Invite them to glue these down in any order they like on their paper, colour and add joining words (optional) to their recipe
4) Of course, the best way to complete this learning cycle is then to work with the child to produce their meal for real. This may be tricky if they’ve chosen to make apple and onion cookies (!) but gives you a chance to educate them in which flavours complement each other. You can refine their recipe choices as you go along… This herb smells nice with that vegetable, shall we try adding it?

Verdict: Some children, perhaps those who are less artistically fluid and prefer a more structured, systemic approach to learning like my 3-year old (potentially those who have a tendency towards fussy eating too), will enjoy this ordered but empowering activity. It introduces them to the adult world of cookery and encourages them to make autonomous choices about food, whilst refining the fine motor skills involved in cutting, sticking and colouring. And if they learn to love food while experiencing the satisfaction of home-cooking, even better!

Catchphrase: ‘Ooh, chocolate potato mash, what an interesting idea!!’

Left wanting more?:
) Leave the photocopied food stuffs out in a small bowl on the table with accessible paper, glue and pens and see if they return to it at a later date. If you are in the middle of a particularly stressful meal time, invite the child to take some time out to show you a different recipe of something they would like to eat. Draw the proportions of fruit, protein, dairy etc… they need to stay healthy on a paper plate and ask them to fill in each section with their own choices.
2) My son’s pre-school set up a brilliant food activity recently. They put a series of toy tills and scales along tables with real bowls of onions, apples and potatoes so the children could play at weighing, buying and selling while handling real produce.
3) I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’d like to try making a ‘smelly painting’. Use food stuffs to rub different smells onto areas of paper, these may be colourless or leave a stain. Experiment with navigating the painting with eyes closed or open… Could the smells lead to ideas for new recipes? (Heston Blumenthall, eat your heart out!)