Kids love the beach for the novelty of water and sand and the wide range of play possibilities. While beach-themed food won't necessarily give kids the chance to build a sand castle, it will remind them of the fun they have at the seashore -- and infuse the meal with a sense of specialness. Beach-themed food is suitable for almost any special occasion, such as birthday parties, school events, playdates and school play cast parties.
Bring the beach to the table in the form of seafood dishes like crab tacos, grilled marinated shrimp skewers, fish sticks and grilled salmon. Make your own lower-calorie versions of seafood dishes that are typically less than healthy, such as lobster salad rolls and crab cakes. Take advantage of canned seafood, which is precooked and relatively inexpensive. Serve seafood salad to adults and veggie-loving kids, with an array of bottled dressings. For picky kids or a meal to amuse, cook turkey dogs and cut long, overlapping slits to form "tentacles." Serve upright, tentacles splayed, to make "octopus dogs."
Give a nod to boats at the beach by making a watermelon boat full of fruit salad. Hollow out half a watermelon, seed and dice the scooped-out flesh, and fill the hollowed hull with fruits. Rig up a sail with a wooden dowel or chopstick and a fruit roll cut into a pennant shape. Other beachlike side dishes and snacks include crackers shaped like fish -- served in a plastic beach pail -- and cheddar cheese cut into starfish shapes with a cookie cutter.
Make ocean cups by stirring blue food coloring into vanilla pudding. Cut triangular shark fins out of grape fruit rolls and stick them in the top of the pudding. Add beach "sand' by crushing graham crackers on top of one section of the pudding until the blue is completely covered. Blue gelatin desserts can also be decorated this way. Trim sugar cookie dough -- use store-bought to save time -- into seashell, sandal and beach umbrella shapes with cookie cutters. Or go all out and make a sandcastle cake from a specialty mold.
Serve a blue raspberry drink mix for a kid-friendly beverage the color of the sea. Or spike milk with blue food coloring for a low-sugar, high-calcium alternative. Combine sparkling water with lemonade, add yellow food coloring to make the color more vivid and call it sunny lemonade.