8 Healthy Eating Activities for Kids
- Grow your own food
- Visit a farm, market or shop
- Preparing healthy food
- Use toy food
- Little Red Hen
- Food science
- Shopping list bingo
- Make a food rainbow collage
It’s more important than ever to teach children about healthy eating, in order to address the issue of rising obesity rates in our schools. In this article, we’re going to explore some healthy eating activities aimed specifically at engaging preschool children, with the aim of building a foundation for lifelong healthy eating.
How to approach healthy eating in preschool settings
The two main objectives of healthy eating activities at this stage are:
- To help the children find out about different kinds of food
- To introduce and explore basic nutritional concepts
Here are some general principles to follow:
- Make the healthy eating activities fun, engaging and hands-on
- Keep things simple, using language that can be easily understood
- Encourage the children to try new foods at mealtimes
- Make sure that the food served in your nursery is nutritionally balanced
- Be a good role model – eat healthily in front of the children
- Be mindful of health and safety issues (eg allergies, choking)
8 Healthy Eating Activities for Kids
1. Grow your own food
Children can learn a lot about food simply by growing it themselves. It’s great if you have space for a dedicated vegetable patch outside, but even just growing some plants in pots inside can be very rewarding. Get the children involved in planting the seeds/plants, watering them, harvesting them and preparing/eating the produce. Some of the easiest things to grow include wild strawberries, cherry tomatoes, radishes, runner beans, lettuce, chives, carrots and potatoes.
2. Visit a farm, market or shop
Arrange a trip to a local farm, market, fruit and veg shop or even a supermarket. Tailor your activity accordingly; for example, on a farm visit you might be able to see where the cows are milked, or perhaps pick some produce (eg strawberries). At a market you might play a game of food bingo, where the children have to find different types of food; at a supermarket you could look for items on a shopping list, and then take them back to the nursery to cook with.
3. Preparing healthy food
Food preparation with preschoolers often involves cakes and biscuits. While there’s no need to cut this out – after all, everything is fine in moderation as part of a balanced diet – you could explore some healthier options as well. For example, cut up some fruit (eg strawberries, kiwis, bananas) and make fruit kebabs; spread rice cakes with cream cheese and decorate with healthy toppings (eg cucumber, tomatoes, olives); make some bread dough and let the children have fun kneading it and shaping it into buns.
4. Use toy food
You’ll need a good range of toy food for these healthy eating activities – there are plenty of plastic or wooden options available. There are lots of ways of using play food as a learning resource: get the children to group the food into different types, ie all the fruit or vegetables together; have a discussion about what makes food healthy or not so healthy, and decide which category each piece should be put into; ask the children to create a healthy, balanced meal by selecting items of toy food that would go well together and putting them onto paper plates.
5. Little Red Hen
The classic story of the Little Red Hen is a great launch pad for exploring the concept of food production (it’s about the whole process of making bread – from growing the wheat to grinding the flour to baking the loaf in the oven). You could simply read and discuss the story with the children; but how about bringing it to life with a puppet show, or performing it using masks or costumes. There’s a lot of scope for supplementary creative activities (making puppets/props/masks), as well as bread making/tasting.
6. Food science
A fun way of learning about food is by exploring its different properties. There are several science experiments involving food – here are just a few examples: demonstrate capillary action by putting celery in water and adding food dye; examine osmosis through the potato/salt experiment, in which you put two halves of a potato in different bowls of water, one of which is very salty; explore the weird and wonderful properties of cornflour by making slime that can be both liquid and solid.
7. Shopping list bingo
For this healthy eating activity for Preschool you’ll need plenty of large-ish stickers featuring different kinds of healthy food. Make up some shopping lists, each featuring 10 items, all in slightly different permutations; make up a corresponding bag of bingo chips (including all of the stickers that you’ve used on the lists). As you call out each item of healthy food, any child with a matching sticker crosses it off, and the winner is the first to cross off their whole shopping list.
8. Make a food rainbow collage
Promote the healthy eating principle of ‘eating the rainbow’ by making a food rainbow collage with the children. This will take a fair bit of preparation, as you’ll need to cut out lots of pictures of healthy food of all colours from magazines or brochures. First get the children to sort the pictures into different colours, and then they can glue them onto a large sheet of paper, in a rainbow formation.