Playing with your food isn't necessarily a bad idea. After all, there’s a reason so many parents turn a spoonful of baby food into a flying airplane with a mouth as the destination. It’s all about the presentation. Since little ones prefer cute creations to gourmet reductions, provide the ingredients and let your child create edible sea creatures. Not only will these creatures find their way to your child’s ocean, their stomach, it will also lay the foundation that cooking is fun.
Hot-Dog Jellyfish and Octopus
Cook the hot dogs before letting your junior chef begin his octopus creation. Starting one inch from the top, an adult should make slits down to the end until the hot dog looks like it has tentacles. Give your child mustard and ketchup and let him transform the hot dog into an octopus by adding eyes and a mouth or maybe even hair. Kids and jellyfish do not mix on a real beach, so let your child get up and personal with a hot-dog jellyfish. Have an adult cut raw hot dogs into one- or two-inch segments before your child inserts as many noodles into the bottom of the hot dog segment as possible. Have a parent then boil the entire mess until the noodles are tender. Once drained, you have a mess of edible jellyfish that don’t sting when touched.
Croissant Crabs and Sharks
Croissants, those buttery flaky bread rolls, are good for more than gourmet lunches; they make the perfect canvas to create scary sea animals. Armed with triangles of cheese, turkey or ham, your child can make sharks on his plate. The triangles can be used for fins on the sides and the cheese can be the shark fin. Use condiments for an eye or smile. A pinching crab needs some red pepper strips for pinchers on either end of the croissant and utilizes carrot sticks for legs.
Sea-Creature Shaped Cookie Cutters
Craft stores carry varieties of cookie cutters, including sea-creature shaped ones that enable you to turn cookies, sandwiches and more into seafood creatures. Preschoolers can make their own peanut-butter-and jelly sandwiches or tuna sandwiches with plastic utensils and supervision. Let your child eat the sandwich without its crust by using a seal cookie cutter on the sandwich. Add a peeled clementine or mandarin orange so that the seal can bounce a ball on his nose. Flavored gelatin makes the perfect medium to cut out some slimy, bouncy sea creatures and it is available in a vast array of bright, fun colors.
Krispy Rice Treats
Krispy rice cereal is often enjoyed as a treat when combined with melted butter and marshmallows. Freshly made by a parent, it can then be molded by little hands into many different shapes. Roll the treats into balls and add peeled licorice strings to make an octopus. A banana can morph into a shark with graham crackers broken into triangle shapes for the back fin. Add some chocolate-chip eyes and you have one scary banana. Cookies can turn into sea turtles with the addition of halved grapes for the head, arms and legs.