Cooking with kids teaches early science skills.

Making Insects With Food With Kids

by Sara Ipatenco

There's no doubt about it. Cooking with kids is incredibly messy and you might shoo them out of the kitchen so you can prepare snacks and meals as quickly and mess-free as possible. Before you step into your kitchen again, reconsider and invite your children to help you make something interesting and nutritious. Creating insects with a variety of healthy foods benefits your children by teaching them to follow a recipe, as well as encouraging early math and reading skills. It might also motivate them to eat nutritious foods without hours of coaxing on your part.

1. Fruit Insects

Fresh and dried fruits come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, making them an ideal medium for creating edible insects. Spread peanut butter on the skin side of a red apple half and let your child add a few sprinkles to make a ladybug, or make a caterpillar by cutting grapes into quarters and lining them up to make the body. Add a tiny dot of cream cheese to the first grape to become eyes. Spreading peanut butter and arranging grapes are appropriate jobs for your children to take on. A free-for-all is another kid-friendly idea. Give your children a variety of fresh fruits that you've chopped into small pieces, and let them come up with their own insect ideas. It'll inspire creativity, and they'll also have a healthy snack when they're done.

2. Vegetable Insects

Many children will do anything they can to get out of eating their vegetables, but making them look like bugs might entice the kiddos to actually allow a veggie to pass through their lips. Make insects using cherry tomato halves for the bodies and halved cucumber slices for the wings. Let your children get in on the action by arranging the the insects on their plates. Cut celery into small sticks and spread it with cream cheese or peanut butter. Add dried fruit pieces to make the classic kid-friendly snack called ants on a log. Spreading the inside of the celery, as well as adding dried fruit, encourages fine motor skill development at the same time as your children are creating a nutritious snack.

3. Additional Insects

Lay two triangle-shaped pieces of pizza on a plate with the bottom points of the triangle about an inch apart. Slip a celery stick between the two pizza slices to make a butterfly. Spread a whole-wheat cracker with peanut butter and add pretzel pieces to create an edible spider. Show your children how to roll a turkey dog in reduced-fat refrigerated dough to make a chrysalis. Slice the turkey dog in half length-wise and then cut each half in half again so you have four long strips, which will reduce the risk of choking. You might also remove the hot dog skin. Roll each hot dog strip into a piece of dough so the hot dog is the caterpillar and the dough is the chrysalis itself. Bake them until the dough is browned. While your children are eagerly awaiting their edible bugs, give them a quick lesson about how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. Cut the chrysalises into small pieces before serving so your child can eat them more easily.

4. Tips and Considerations

Give your children as many jobs in the kitchen as possible. When they feel like they're a part of the process, they're more likely to enjoy preparing food, but they're much more likely to eat what they've made, too. Do all the slicing and dicing yourself, though, to protect your children from serious injury. Bring in a little education while you're cooking together. Ask your children to count how many grapes they used to make a caterpillar or how many spots are on their apple ladybug. Encourage them to come up with a creative story about their edible insect before they gobble it down.

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