Category Archives: Kids Eating Tips

Article contains tips relating to family and kids eating

Caramelized Banana Loaf

This recipe is so easy to whip together that my toddler could do it. In fact – she did!  Warning: the baking time is long at 2.5hrs – but the deep caramelized flavour is worth it.

Getting  kids in the kitchen is a great way to increase their exposures to foods, learn language skills, practice fine & gross motor skills as well as keeping them busy (and hopefully out of mess creating mischief). Fussy eaters get so many benefits from increased food exposures, including those away from mealtimes – read more here!


8 ways kids can help in the kitchen & learn at the same time:

1) Measuring and tipping ingredients into the bowl helps with motor planning & learning about volume.
2) Mixing ingredients in the bowl is great for learning to control the speed of the spoon.
3) Threading wooden skewers is great for fine motor skills.
4) Mashing softened fruits or vegetables with a fork is great to learn about changing textures.
5) Cracking eggs into a separate bowl for more motor planning experiences.
**hot tip: use other bits of shell to scoop out shell that accidentally goes into your eggs.**
6) Hand over hand grating is great for sensory exposure – let them feel the fruit or vegetable as well as the vibration of the grater safely by controlling and holding their hand in yours away from the blades.
7) Practice counting and numbers by setting timers or helping to use scales.
8) Using cutters to make and learn shapes in dough, bread, fruits, vegetables and pancakes


Caramelized Banana Loaf

3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
3 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil (or other oil / butter of your choice)
1 1/3 cups flour (you can use a combination of wholemeal and  plain white flour for this)
1/3 cup natural yoghurt (for dairy free opt for 1/2 cup almond milk instead)

Method (steps that kids can do are put in italics):

  • Line a loaf tin with foil (shiny surface facing inwards)
  • Preheat the oven to 130oC
  • Measure out the following ingredients into little bowls; bicarb soda, flour, natural yoghurt, oil, honey and sugar. You can also crack the eggs into separate bowl, check for shell & lightly whisk. This step is optional depending on your child’s involvement and skill set.
  • Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork – I like to use a plastic bowl with a non-slip bottom to assist my toddler with her tasks. Having a bowl that slips and slides is frustrating and difficult to process for the little chefs.
  • Add the bicarb soda, sugar and honey to the bananas and mix.
  • Mix in the following ingredients in this order:
         Macadamia Nut Oil
         Natural Yoghurt
  • Pour the batter into the loaf tin
  • Put it in the oven for 2.5 hours or until it is cooked through (ie  a skewer or knife comes out clean)

This recipe is suitable for freezing by wrapping individual slices in cling film.  Take them straight from the freezer and put them into the lunchbox.

Do you have a tip for safely including your kids in the kitchen?

In our Sydney based workshops and classes for toddlers, preschoolers and early primary schoolers, I love to answer parents’ questions about engaging their children in activities with food.  Do you have any questions?  If you want to know when our classes are on – have a look here!

Happy Eating!


July is Kohlrabi Month

The monthly challenge for July is Kohlrabi.Kohlrabi

It is so cute the way my daughter (now 27 months old) says “coal-wabby”.  Her enthusiasm for my monthly challenge has really been wonderful.  We use the new fruits or vegetables to do some sensory exploration and talk about different attributes of them, increasing her vocabulary and language skills.

We tried Kohlrabi as chips & pickled.  Homemade chips are a great way for children to experience new vegetables if they are particularly fond of crunchy textures.

Golden Beetroot, Candy Striped Beetroot and Kohlrabii sliced ready for baking into chips
Golden Beetroot, Candy Striped Beetroot and Kohlrabii sliced ready for baking into chips
Chips in beautiful winter hues
Chips in beautiful winter hues

Pickled in an asian style slaw was perfect for a few different applications
1) in a Vietnamese roll for a variation of a Bahn Mi
2) in Rice paper rolls with oyster sauce flavoured pork mince, bean shoots & fresh coriander

Kohlrabi Cooking: Rice Paper Rolls by Play with Food
Pork Mince, Bean Shoots, Asian Style Slaw & Fresh Coriander


Asian Style Carrot, Beet & Kohlrabi Slaw

Julienne your raw carrot, beetroot & kohlrabi so that they look like matchsticks.  In your bowl, make the pickling juice with the following ratio of ingredients 1 cup water: 2tbsp Caster Sugar: 2tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar: 1tsp Salt.  You will need enough to soak the vegetables in.

I like to let this sit for at least 30 min.  You can do this first and then make your chicken or pork ready to fill your rolls or rice paper rolls.

My toddler was not a fan of the texture of the rice paper roll but loved the pickled slaw.  Making rice paper rolls with a toddler is not a stress free event so I’d recommend saving this for a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Or use it as a mid-week dinner as a bahn mi style on a Vietnamese roll with some marinated chicken pieces and fresh cos lettuce.

Happy Eating!



Tasty Dinner Adventure Game

I have seen some interesting dinnerware options that I am going to be exploring in more depth in a later blog post.  In my research, there are some alarming dinner games that encourage rewarding with food. I’m not trying to be the fun police, BUT, I do believe in teaching your child to eat an amount that they recognize fills them up at mealtimes.  I also believe in the meal being family time and full of learning opportunities.   I also believe in appropriate reward for appropriate behaviour – with an acknowledged achievement being the best reward.

So, until I have finished writing my more comprehensive blog post about setting the table up for your child to eat well.  Here is my version of an appropriate mealtime engagement activity.

Get the PDF by clicking on “Tasty Dinner Adventure” & print up multiple copies of the 3rd page (game page) & laminate them to use as your plate.

Tasty Dinner Adventure


1)    Children and Parents decide together what food goes on each of the colourful squares

2)    A balanced range of colours and food groups should be represented (fruit, vegetable, meat or meat alternative, dairy or dairy alternative, cereal / grain)

3)    The reward at the end is NEVER substituted for food (like sweets)

4)    The reward for having a tasty dinner adventure is that you completed a tasty dinner adventure and gives you a sticker to put on your dinner adventure chart

5)    There is no additional reward for completing the chart. Never remove stickers your child has earnt from the chart for misbehaviour (this gives mixed signals). Find another consequence more fitting to the actions.

6)    There needs to be at least two players playing together.  This ensures the game is a family meal & brings learning opportunities to the forefront.

7)    During the game you can talk about the tangible aspects of the food you are trying / eating – colour, temperature, texture, shape, flavour

8)    Keep a learning bowl on the side for the foods you tried and might come back to trying again later

Tasty Dinner Adventure Game by Play with Food

Illustrate Your Food Memories

I saw a lovely facebook post illustrated by the Blair Athol North School and shared by Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Foundation.  The children illustrated their own recipe.  I looked online for a good template but didn’t find an ideal one …. So at the bottom of this post is one I’ve created for you to print up and have your budding chef/artists record their food memories on.

This is my completed version of the template.  Remember it’s not nice to laugh at other people’s drawings 😉

Illustrate your Food Memories by Play with Food

Food is such a powerful and emotional part of our lives.  We have great memories and painful memories all tied up in food.  Illustrating your own recipes is a good way to put down some favourite recipes and tease out what the memories mean to you and your kids.  It’s a language building opportunity and a great discovery tool for deeper engagement.

I made the blood orange and chocolate cup cakes to eat during last night’s episode of Master Chef.   It came from the top of my head & based on available flavours.  I wasn’t about to watch a dessert challenge & sit pining for something unhealthy for a whole hour.  This was a sweet treat without the guilt.  On the show last night, the contestants on Master Chef had to recreate an amazing dessert based on their perceptions from a  written description alone.  It’s amazing what one written description resulted in from the 4 contestants.  They weren’t given a picture, recipe or a taste of the food.  This is where their memory and their own experiences played a part in determining what they would plate up.

Food memories start VERY early on.  Children that have painful food memories will often exhibit fussiness or issues with eating.  Remember those memories (even fears) are real to them.  Never belittle or dismiss a child’s memories or beliefs, it’s something that you should address correctly.

One way to assist with food memories is to build a library of “safe” recipes.  Review this repertoire with your child and work on adding in some new shapes / colours / flavours and textures.  Use our template to build up your recipe collection!  We cover lots of different ways to enhance positive eating memories in our classes / workshops.  Have a look at our class schedule to learn more about what is available.

Blood Orange & Chocolate Cup Cakes by Play with Food

Blood Orange and Chocolate Cup Cakes

Stir all ingredients together & baked in a moderate oven for 25 min.  Makes 6 cup cakes.

  • Juice of 2 home grown (ie small) blood oranges
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 3/4 cup SR flour
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp macadamia oil
  • 1 egg

Here is the Recipe Template for your children to illustrate & enjoy with you.

Happy Eating!


Reasons to Play with Food Outside of Mealtimes

The more exposure that your child has to fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to eat it. Fact.

The operative word here is EXPOSURES.

But how do we keep giving exposures without generating waste, mess and battles at the table? Simple – not all exposures have to be during mealtimes.

Reasons for exposure opportunities outside of mealtimes include:
1) It’s a no pressure environment
2) It’s packed with other learning opportunities eg language, motor planning, sensory & socialization
3) Having fun keeps us all sane 🙂
4) Helps kids move up the first steps to eating hierarchy (tolerate, interact with, touch, smell .. etc)
5) Improves familiarity
6) It will help them learn to EAT those fruits & vegies

Have you ever said “oh don’t give him/her that, they won’t eat it”, Yes? Well you wouldn’t be alone, I have done it too! Why do I hate saying it though?
A) It comes out of my mouth before I even think about what I’m saying and it makes me sound so mumsy 🙂
B) If my daughter heard me it would strengthen her belief that she doesn’t eat it
C) I just took away a great chance for another exposure.


Here are a few exposures we did this week at our house outside of mealtimes:

1) Helping out in the kitchen to make dinosaur cakes. My daughter put the spinach & sweet potato into the blender. By touching them during the task, she was being exposed to it!

2) We talked about artichokes, looked at pictures (on the internet) and then went to buy them at the green grocer. Here is the best bit – By doing that pre-work with her meant that when all else failed trying to get her off the Peppa Pig coin operated ride at the shops, I simply said “do you want to go & buy the artichokes now?” And within a second she was by my side ready to go. Ha ha ha – got to love creative parenting!

3) Tracing around corn on the paper.  It is also a great language building time by talking about the bumpy surface, the colour “lello” and writing the word C O R N inside.


4) Broccoli painting. Obviously needing a little extra patience on your part, painting is great for sensory exposures.


Obviously the sky is the limit with vegie craft ideas & this is just some of what we did this week in our house. Have you done a great fruit & veg exposure craft? – comment below!

For more wonderful ideas for fruit & vegetable exposure, try out our play with food classes.

This broccoli exposure was during our pre-dinner play, so I wanted to use broccoli in our dinner. I used the rest of the head of broccoli to make this yummy family meal.

Chicken, Broccoli & Almond Rice Noodles

Serves: 2 adults & 2 kids


You will need:
4 chicken thighs, cut into strips
Oil for browning chicken (i used peanut oil)
3 shallots, sliced into thin rounds
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3/4 head of broccoli, roughly chopped
Handful of coriander, roughly torn
2tbsp tahini
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp maple syrup
1/2 packet of dried rice noodles
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
Boiling water

In a wok, heat oil & brown chicken. Add garlic & shallots. After 5 minutes & chicken is cooked through, add broccoli & coriander. Add boiling water to

noodles in a separate bowl so they cook (takes a couple of minutes). Add the mixed tahini, soy & maple to the chicken. Once noodles are cooked add them to the chicken & keep stirring for another minute or so. Serve in a big bowl in the middle of the table with toasted almonds on top & some extra coriander for garnish.

Happy Eating!

Kids Love Chicken Meatballs

Observing the children who participate in my classes each week, I definitely see lots of patterns emerge about what kids do and don’t like to eat.  These patterns fit in so nicely with the current literature, studies and the tools I demonstrate.  I do find that MEAT is either a “Love it” or “Leave it” for most kids.  Meat is a textural minefield and many of the problems result from how it is prepared.  I obviously don’t cover meat in my classes – I only do fruits and vegetables – however, the routines we learn in class for the fruits and vegetables are directly transferable to your kitchen & table.

I do see children that have had allergies or currently have allergies.  A common allergy is egg.  Did you know that you can substitute egg with chia seeds?  (Well yes, if you have seen my post last week for princess cakes, you would already know this.  The princess cakes are egg & gluten free and are a yummy toddler approved morning tea.)

For those playing at home with the materials I have given you in class and are trying to assist your child overcome a food jag, this is a recipe that you can use if you are transitioning to whole pieces of meat from processed meat (eg. wanting your kids to have chicken breast as opposed to processed chicken nuggets).  It’s also perfect for families that have to consider an egg allergy.   Families should aim to have the one meal and this is a great recipe that will satisfy everyone.  Use the best chicken mince that you can & the texture of the balls will be between that of the chicken nugget & a chicken breast.  You can spice it up as you please (however, remember radically changing the taste profile for food jaggers is the final step in the transition.)

Chia & Chicken Balls | Why they are great for fussy kids | Play with Food


  1. Soak 2tsp of chia seeds in 4tsp of water for at least 10mins until gluggy.
  2. In the meantime, sautee 1 clove of finely chopped garlic & a rasher of finely chopped bacon.
  3. Then once cooked & in a separate bowl, combine the bacon mix, 1/2 cup multigrain breadcrumbs, 2tbsp tomato paste, 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce, chia mix and 350g chicken mince.
  4. Roll into balls & cook in the pan

If you are interested in learning more about our toddler, preschooler or 5-7yo class programs.  Have a look here for our current schedule!

If you have any questions about this recipe, food jagging or just love chicken meatballs – leave me a comment below!

Happy Eating!
Simone Emery

Princess Cakes

My mission was to orchestrate a fun day for my 2yo and her cousin (nearly 4yo) – a princess day. I wanted memorable activities, yummy fun food & a good chance for them to bond.

The activites included princess story books, playing outside and designing their own t-shirt. I helped the girls select pictures to print onto iron-on transfer paper and then we ironed them onto pre-purchased t-shirts.

What I was most excited about was using my daughter’s enthusiasm to help me in the kitchen. She helped grate the carrot (by holding her hand within mine.)  She put ingredients that I measured out into the blender and she poured the batter into the awaiting party cake holders.

Toddler snacks should be appropriately sized. I like to bake in smaller portion sizes for a few reasons:
1) less tendency for my daughter to over stuff her mouth.
2) you can serve with other food groups for a more balanced snack or meal.
3) less wastage if they don’t eat it all.
4) extras can be frozen for snacks on the go – wrap in cling film individually before freezing.


Princess Cakes

3/4 cup rice flour
1tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 2tbsp cold water for at least 10min
1 medium sized carrot, finely grated
1/3 cup cooked sweet potato
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
1tbsp butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180oC and grease your patty cake tin (or you can use mini cup cake holders). I used spray on coconut oil.

Put all ingredients into the blender. Whizz until all ingredients are well combined.

Pour batter into cake tin & bake for about 20mins (until cooked through). Tip: the mixture does not rise so fill the tins to the brim. Gently shake to level out the batter in the tin. This mix should make approx 18 mini-cakes.

To decorate these cakes I made a tiny batch of pink butter cream icing & store-bought sprinkles. The girls used knives that come with toddler cuttlery sets to apply the icing.

All toddler cooking should be supervised.

Happy Eating!
🙂 Simone

Learning to Eat

In August last year, I attended SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) Approach to Feeding training.  This training really helped me polish up the activities in my fruit and vegetable classes.  It gave me a good foundation to see the difference between normal feeding development (including developmental related fussiness) and feeding problems. The other major benefit to this training was to find a wonderful network of feeding therapy professionals including, dietitians, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, nutritionists, children’s psychologists and pediatric nurses.

Learning to eat is complex.  It can take 2 – 3 years to learn to eat.  Eating is NOT an automatic behavior – it is a LEARNT behaviour.  Learning to eat is a journey for the senses, the physical body, the imagination, the memory and it happens about 5 times a day from the day we are born. Feeding therapy is usually sought for children who are not progressing on their feeding journey via the typical milestones.   What I have learnt in my experience and training is that there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to helping children on their learning to eat journey.   It can take some collaboration to get it right.

As Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Dr Denise Stapleton, explained to me,  “When the credits rollout at the end of a film we are reminded about the large number of different skills that were needed to produce it. Similarly, in order to make it possible for eating and family mealtimes to be harmonious, insights from many perspectives might be needed.” Dr Stapleton finds that when she combines her skill sets with those of others they achieve more than is possible on their own.  “When skilled occupational therapists, speech pathologists, dietitians, physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, social workers, nurses and doctors connect and holistically support families, mealtimes can become pleasurable for all involved.”  

Ultimately, if you are concerned about your child’s eating and their journey’s direction, remember that there are many professionals that can assist because there are many factors that influence the eating journey.   The best place to start looking for assistance is often with a GP, especially if children are not on the typical growth chart trajectory.  For more general questions about your child’s eating journey have a chat to Simone.

Incorporating a host of information from a variety of disciplines is key to the success of the Play with Food programs.  When you walk in the door you get a cross-functional experience and you have a table of resources available to you to reference.

A variety of resources are made available for carers to enhance their play with food experiences.
A variety of resources are made available for carers to enhance their play with food experiences.

Dr Denise Stapleton has teamed up with occupational therapist, Gillian Griffiths, to write a book called SENSE-ational Mealtimes. Children, parents, caregivers and clinicians find the sensory preference information that they share throughout the book to be an important missing piece of their mealtime difficulties puzzle.  This is a link to their website. SM_sense-ational-mealtimes-book_Cover

Choose Adventure

Children operate in a world of new possibilities & imagination.  Explore their world with them during meals!

Delight their imagination – Enjoy their exuberance – Understand their fears 

Today, I have a poorly little girl.  Plans are out the window.  Imagination is in full flight.  We converted our lounge room into an indoor tent (with sheets draped over the lounge and chairs). She was not interested in her normal routine at all. We ate brekky on the floor. Below is a picture of our lunch today.  We sang wheels on the bus as we moved our carrots and cucumber around our plate and into our mouths.  She picked out everything she wanted to eat and we had smiles.

How can you choose your own food adventure?

1 – Serve everything in the middle of the table so you can all choose 
2 – Find something imaginative related to your food to talk about 
3 – Let your child take some control & trust them
4 – Remember you are their number one role model


 Join us for classes or workshops in Sydney, Australia, where we choose our own adventures, we play, we sing, we learn and we laugh!  See our page Play with Food Lesson Schedule for more information!

5 tips for “I’m hungry” complaints

The kids come home from school and wail “I’m Hungry”!

My daughter is only 2 years old and she is already getting in practice for her post-school “I’m Hungry” wails.  Is it built into kids to do this?

If you look at mealtimes across your day, you will see that going from lunch to dinner is a very expansive amount of time. Untimely grazing is the norm for many kids in the afternoon.  Grazing on inappropriate foods decreases a child’s appetite for dinner.  Also, if opting for quick and easy foods, it will unnecessarily increase sodium, fat and sugar intake.

Here are my 5 tips for nipping this afternoon ritual in the bud!  These tips when put in practice, have side benefits of: A) Decreased nagging B) Helping you keep your sanity C) A peaceful family dinner.

5 Tips for Handling the Afternoon "I'm Hungry" Wails by Play with Food (


#1: The Two Hour Rule

Afternoon tea has to be completed no less than 2 hours before your scheduled dinner.  So, if you eat at 6:30pm – do not allow the afternoon snack to go past 4:30.

#2: Be Prepared

This is essentially another meal opportunity that you are actively providing.  Don’t think of this as an inconvenience that the kids can just sort out & grab from the cupboard as they please.  Either prepare something ahead of time so it’s ready to go on time or get them to prepare it themselves with you when you get home.  In the picture , I have yoghurt, toasted oats and stewed fruit layered in a glass.   It’s super easy for the kids to make and covers off 3 food groups in one meal.

#3: Fix What’s Missing

This is your opportunity to fill in the nutritional gap in your child’s day.   If they are down on the recommended vegetable intake, use this as a vegie eating snack.  Likewise with dairy, fruit, protein or cereals.

For Australian readers, the Eat for Health website has easy to understand guidelines on what a child should be eating.  Use this website to help you work out nutritional gaps  in your childs typical diet and what an appropriate “serving size” is.

#4: Eat With Your Kids

Who says they are the only ones struggling to get from lunch to dinner time?  Its a great way for you to enjoy a nutritious snack and have some time to chat to the kids.  Role modelling the consumption of healthy foods is really important.   Don’t underestimate how much you can connect with your kids over a 5 minute snack shared together.

 #5: If all else fails….

Dinner is about 30 mins away but the wails continue – avoid sweet foods (yep, even fruit).  Sweetness suppresses the appetite and will leave you stranded with your lovingly prepared dinner & either a battle ensues or you just feel helpless.  Try giving a glass of water to make sure it isn’t thirst disguised as hunger and then assign some creative tasks to get them to help get dinner on the table – “Can you design us a centerpiece for the table tonight?”  Or (maybe less creative) “Can you please set the table?” Or “Can you taste test this sauce and tell me what it might need?”  Or “Try this carrot that I put into tonight’s curry.”

** BONUS**

A Plan Ahead Tip by Food Group:

Fruit:  Poach left over fruits & store them in an airtight container for during the week.  I stew all sorts of fruit with some cinnamon & a dash of vanilla extract – it doesn’t have to have lots of added sugar!  Remember that the cooking water holds nutrients too – so chill that and add it to a smoothie.

Protein: Make a chick pea hummus & store in an container in the fridge.

Vegetables: Vegies that cam be cut up and eaten raw include carrot, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum, snow peas, sugar snap peas, zucchini (peeled into ribbons), celery, tomatoes, fennel, cabbage, lettuces and green beans. Team these with a legume or nut based dip and you also get some beneficial fats and proteins into the day.

Dairy: Smoothies are a great way to blend fruit, vegies, cereals, nuts & seeds and dairy into one easy meal.   See this post of mine on green smoothies.  My daughter has been having rockmelon, spinach & chia  seed smoothies lately – what a powerful combination of food groups!  You can put all the ingredients for your smoothie into your blender, wack it in the fridge, do the school run and then blitz when you get home.

Cereals:  Cereals are a great base for adding other food groups.  Prepare ahead ideas include muffins that can be stored in the freezer & quickly defrosted.



Quick boost pikelets

It would be no surprise to parents of 2 (or more) that the transition to a larger family size has it’s good & “not so good” moments. Last night we had a “not so good” string of moments with our jealous toddler. So, this morning we needed a quick boost brekky – a bit of a change from our normal routine (without making it taxing on me).

We made some quick wholemeal pikelets with dried fruit. My daughter helped (mostly between jealous tears as I was holding the baby) and soon cheered up watching the cooking pikelets.


Quick Pikelet Batter:
Mix 1/2 cup wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 cup low joule lemonade or soda water, 1 tbsp golden syrup or honey (depending on how sweet you like pikelets) and a handful of dried fruit.

Do you find a little change up to your routine or making a special meal can help ‘reset’ your family?

Yum Cha for 4

Today we went to yum cha for the first time as a family of 4. Last week we welcomed Verity to our family. We are getting settled at home & are enjoying getting to know our new bundle of joy.

I sat during yum cha & thought about the experience from my toddler’s point of view. She was loving watching all of the carts circling around the restaurant and the hub bub of the tables around us. She insisted on trying out chopsticks. Firstly, I fed her with them. Then she invented an innovative “one stick and one hand” technique. She loved the rice parcels in pandan leaf, sesame encrusted prawn roll, snake beans and black pepper beef.

I thought that if you are looking for a way of having family style meals when dining out and if Yum Cha is an option for you – give it a go! There are lots of learning opportunities and topics for fact based food conversations.

For more information about some simple steps to introducing the family meal see this post of mine.

Giveaway: Chinese New Year Inspired Vegie Game

As we move from the year of the Snake to the year of the Horse, I thought it would be a bit of fun to make my own board game to encourage vegie sensory play.

What you will need to prepare before starting the game:

1 carrot  or zucchini prepared as follows – use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons ie. “snakes” and a grater to make the rest of the vegetable into “hay” for the horse. (See note below about using containers / laminating the paper).

A counter for each player.

A die

Printable – you can laminate if you want or put individual bowls over the barrel & trough icons to stop them getting very wet from the vegetable juices.

You may want a learning bowl for your child also so that they can put their hay stack or snakes into it when they finish with them.  Use some of our positive encouragement steps from classes to guide your child gently from touching to smelling, kissing, licking or tasting the vegetable.  Remember not to push them past where they are comfortable. If children aren’t comfortable touching the vegetable, try using a cocktail fork & plate for them so that they can participate too. At this stage the important part is participation in the game and enjoying some sensory exploration (this is not to be viewed as a scheduled snack or meal time.)

chinese new year 1


Each player takes turn to roll the dice and move their counter to the circle that reflects the number that they rolled.  If they land on a horse or a snake they complete the sensory task explained on the board.  If they land on a free square there is no sensory task to complete.  Take turns until everyone has gotten to the finish line.

Link to the PDF of the game board:

Snakes And Horses Game



My mum is nutty about mealtimes

This is a blog post in response to the Daily Post weekly writing challenge “Leave your shoes at the door” – The challenge is to write a piece from another persons perspective.  This week, I am writing from my 21 month old daughter’s perspective, concerning my “nutty” obsession with meal and snack schedules.  (I really didn’t want to consider my husband’s perspective!)


My mum is nutty about mealtimes

I am Ellie.  I am 21 months old.  I like the colour purple, staying up late and playing with my dolls.  I have curls in my hair that everyone gushes about.  My daddy combs my hair and makes them pretty but my mum doesn’t worry about that so much.  My mum dresses me “sensibly”.  I attempt to communicate with her that I don’t like that and I want to wear pretty dresses with shoes that don’t match.  She doesn’t like that my communication method is not as smiley and wordy as hers.  I prefer tears and using one word – “No”.

My mum is pretty normal except for at mealtimes.  Mum always insists on sitting with me and she likes to eat at the same times each day.  I have a special chair that I sit in at the table.  This makes me feel important and happy.  I like to say “cheers” with my drinks numerous times through the meal and expect everyone at the table to chink their glasses with my plastic cup.  I even like to say “cheers” when I have my fork full and expect everyone to say “cheers” back and touch their fork to mine.  It makes me laugh and I feel involved.

My mum likes to lay out the food and have me “choose” what I want to eat.  I think it is funny that I have to “choose” because I still end up picking something from each bowl she presents to me.  The good thing is that when I want more of one particular thing she is happy to give it to me.  I’ve usually licked & tasted everything on my plate before I ask for more cheese.  It’s my most preferred food.

Mum likes to talk about the colours of the food and we talk about the temperature of the food.  Mum has rhymes for the colours of the food that make me giggle.  We also like to count the different things on my plate.  We make “wheels” out of some things by “rolling, rolling, rolling” and all sorts of other shapes.  But my favorite thing is to “dip, dip, dip” my foods.  I like it when mum asks for and then takes some unknown foods that I choose for my plate.  She then demonstrates how to eat them, usually with a big cheesy smile on her face.  So, I can’t help but copy her.  It’s just that, sometimes, a new food is confusing for me and I’m not sure what to do with it.  She doesn’t get angry if I spit it back out. Sometimes I am really unsure about how I feel with it in my mouth.  She says “I like that you tried that in your mouth”.  However, I know I will see that food again soon and it won’t be as surprising next time.

Mum always ends the meal with “clean-up time”.  She asks me if I am ready and then we go to the bathroom and get cleaned up.  I like being able to use the soap and dry my own hands.  Sometimes, I even get to go straight into the bath.  I like that my mum doesn’t scrub me down at the table & in between bites of food – that would be annoying!  Instead, she laughs at how messy I can get.

Mum sits down each week and writes a meal plan.  Sometimes we follow it all – sometimes we have to ditch the plan.  Sometimes I get to help ….

What I think of mum's meal plans ... I think they are much prettier with the pink & pen scribbles!
What I think of mum’s meal plans … I think they are much prettier with the pink & pen scribbles!

All in all my mum may be a bit nutty about meals, but she’s MY nutty mealtime mum!

The Family Meal and a Korean Inspired Pork Recipe

I use the term Family Meal often through my blog, facebook posts and my classes.  This is a way of organising your meals so that the whole family can participate in them no matter where your children are at on their eating journey.  A family meal doesn’t have to include everyone, yet it does at least have to have 2 people.  Some of the pointers that we guide parents through during our lessons include the following:

  1. Ensure that children have appropriately set-up eating positions.  They should sit with a 90o angle at the hips, knees and the ankles.
  2. Decide on the environmental cues that will help your child to eat and avoid cues that have been previously associated with negative feeding behaviours.
  3. Engage the child in some movement before the meal to help them organise or reset themselves.
  4. Family style meal serves where everyone takes something from each plate provided – they can put it on their plate or onto their learning plate.  Do this instead of plating up for the child in advance.
  5. At every meal offer: a preferred food, a carbohydrate, a dairy, a fruit, a vegetable and a protein. (** Simone’s tip for busy carer’s is to work towards a balanced diet over the day**).
  6. After 15-20 minutes of eating, instigate “clean-up time”.   (A great routine you learn at Play with Food lessons that transitions to the home environment)

Last Friday I had a huge win with my evening family meal, Korean Inspired Marinated Pork with Broccoli, Rice and a Salad of Carrot & Apple.

  1. The meal contained 4 food groups, grains, meat, fruit and vegetables
  2. It provided vocabulary extension opportunities with my 21mth old
  3. I was very proud of adapting a pork marinade recipe to suit our family (see below)
  4. The meal was all eaten

If the meal wasn’t all eaten, leftovers are safe to wrap from the family style serving plates as opposed to wasted if all food was preserved & mostly refused.

korean pork-1

Korean Inspired Pork & Broccoli (makes enough to marinade 300g diced pork fillet):

For the Marinade:

  • 1/2 apple cored, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 1/3 onion peeled
  • 20ml dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

You will also need:

  • 300g Pork fillet cut into strips
  • Peanut (or vegetable) oil
  • 3 Shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 head of broccoli, broken into bite size florets

Add all marinade ingredients to a food processer and blitz.  Pour marinade over pork and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Stir-fry the shallots and broccoli in some oil and once cooked to your liking, transfer to a bowl. Drain the pork from the marinade (reserving the marinade for later).  Stir fry the pork on its own in a little bit of oil (you may need to do this in batches so the pan is not overcrowded which results in boiling), once cooked through add the reserved marinade and the broccoli mix.  Put into a family serving bowl for the table.


Simone Emery

January is Fresh Chive Month

As you may have seen in my Happy 2014 blog post, my new years resolution is to take on a seasonal fruit / vegetable each month to expand my cooking repertoire.  It’s also a bonus if I can use this fruit/vegetable to make a kid approved meal (or snack).

January’s Challenge: Fresh Chives

To tell you the truth, I had never actually used fresh chives in my cooking before.  I found them to be a great taste booster this month and will definitely be using them again.  It is wonderful to introduce new tastes to babies, toddlers and children through using different herbs.  Herbs do still count as part of your daily vegetable intake.  However, you don’t use much of them so they don’t make a substantial impact on your RDI.  But if they make the flavour more appealing/exciting they can help increase the amount eaten of meat, cereal, dairy, fruits or other vegetables.

I made 3 unique dishes with the fresh chives in January:

  1. Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives
  2. Pear & Chive Filo Parcels
  3. Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

The biggest hit with my toddler was the Soba Noodles.  However, I figured it would be a no-brainer, as noodles are one of her preferred foods and so is zucchini.  The Filo Parcels were my favourite.  I found the chives gave the pear such an amazing flavour and I love the crispy filo pastry.  See my notes below the recipe about my meal tactics and why my combination of foods would be great for you to copy if you have a fussy eater on your hands.

Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives

This is a simple idea for a lunch or brunch.  Take the top off of your tomatoes and hollow them out. Chop up some fresh chives & whisk them into the egg with a small dash of milk.  Fill your tomatoes with the egg mixture and bake at 180oC for 30min.


I do have to admit to failing on this recipe once by using a bit too much milk and running out of baking time.  Under pressure from my eagerly awaiting daughter, I decided to turn her baked tomato into what I call Vegie Eggs.  Basically, what I do is chop/grate up vegetables & fresh herbs that I have, mix with a dash of milk & an egg in a ramekin and microwave for 1 min.  The egg will be cooked through and is like a little dome of omelette without the fuss of using a pan.  This is great for getting vegies in at breakfast during the mid-week rush.  Hint: you can also reserve the middles of your tomatoes from the above recipe to make vegie eggs the next day.

Pear and Chive Filo Parcels

I LOVED this for lunch with my daughter!  We had one pear between us to make 2 parcels. After I tasted it, I wished I had made us 2 parcels each because they were so yummy.

Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives
Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives

Take a pear and cut it in half from top to bottom removing the seeds & the stalk.  Fill the cavity (from the deseeding) with 1 tsp of creme fraiche.  Top with chopped fresh chives.  Wrap each pear half in a sheet of filo pastry and ensure it is sealed by brushing on some milk around the edges (or I just used a finger full of creme fraiche).  Cook this in a 180oC preheated oven for 15mins.  You should see that the pastry goes a nice golden colour at the edges.

Serving Suggestion for Kids:

My daughter loves filo pastry so she was happy to have the parcel on her plate.  The pear can be very hot straight out of the oven – So, I cut it up to cool on her plate.  In the meantime, I had available for her some grapes to choose (a preferred fruit) and shredded iceberg lettuce (our learning vegetable).  She was happy to talk about the temperatures of the hot pear and the cool grapes & lettuce.  We then made “wheels” out of our shredded lettuce by spinning the lettuce between our forefinger & thumb.  We drove our wheels through the “mud” – ie. Stonefruit Chutney (see recipe here).  Having a condiment and a game with the shredded lettuce helped her motor plan a new way to eat her shredded lettuce and gave her something to bite into.  Lettuce can be tricky for children as it is hard to get into their mouths and then when it is there it can be hard to maneuver with their tongue.  A thicker condiment, like a chutney, can add some bulk to it.

PWF left upper

Another part of play with food lessons that I incorporated into this lunch was my love of breaking down the barrier between fruits and vegetables by combining them on the same meal.  This is a link to some of the other topics we cover in lessons.

Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

Cook your Soba noodles as per the packet instructions.  I like to vary up the types of grains that we eat.  You could use pasta too for this meal.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and add 1/2 a zucchini worth of batons and chopped fresh chives (quantity to your liking).  Allow that to sit for 5-10mins (while you set the table & kick off your wash-up routine).  Stir through a generous tablespoon of creme fraiche and put into a serving bowl for the table.

Note: Zucchini does not need to be cooked (and definitely not over cooked to be a soggy mess).  Check that you are happy with the texture of your zucchini before serving – I like mine a bit crunchy so I only left ours in the hot noodles for 5 mins before adding the creme fraiche.

This is what we served up ourselves for lunch & what my daughter thought of it:


I can't talk or pose right now, I'm having too much fun!
I can’t talk or pose right now, I’m having too much fun!

Why is she making such a mess?  She’s LEARNING to eat.  My theory is that they have to learn to eat first before we worry about manners.  Sensory exploration of food is so important for growing minds.

Leave me some comments if you’ve tried Fresh Chives in anything else you think I should try out.  I also pin inspirational recipes for my new years resolutions on Pinterest – so have a look at my boards using the link in the side bar.


Simone Emery

Leftover Pork and Chutney

Today’s menu was a bit blank when we came to lunch.  The Christmas & New Year holiday season means that I’ve accidentally taken a break from meal planning.  Alas, we took up the challenge to use some leftover roast pork from Friday to make a light family meal.

Picture: Pork & Couscous Filo Cigars with my Homemade Stone Fruit Chutney

Left over roast pork worked into a beautiful filo cigar and served with a stonefruit  "dippy sauce"
Left over roast pork worked into a beautiful filo cigar and served with a stone fruit “dippy sauce”

How to use leftover meats:

  • Wrap the roast meat & label it, very soon after cooking & serving what you need for that meal – about 30 mins should be cool enough not to cause issues to other things in your freezer (you don’t want to raise their temperature).
  • You can refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Once defrosted and re-used they can’t be frozen again – so when you initially freeze the meat do so in portion sizes that you will use in a single meal.
  • Ensure they are always re-cooked to be piping hot (60oC is to be reached rapidly – I use 70oC as my rule of thumb to balance out possible temperature probe errors & consistency across the dish).
  • For more information, here is a link to a brochure about cooling and reheating food safely FSANZ:

What can you use leftover roast meats in?

– Caseroles
– Pies / Filo’s
– Pilafs / Fried Rice
– A Pasta Sauce
– Soups

Condiments (or “dippy sauces”) are great with meat for toddlers.  It gives them a fun task during the meal that they are in control of.  Some children are picky when it comes to meat eating, so a dippy sauce can make meat more appealing.    I made a seasonal stone fruit chutney to go with our roast pork last week.  The upside is that I made enough to have again with these pork & couscous cigars.

Seasonal Stonefruit Chutney

2 cups of diced fresh seasonal stonefruit (I had plums, yellow flesh peaches and white flesh nectarines)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar
Juice from 1 Orange
1/2 cup water
zest peeled from 1/2 the orange
7 whole cloves
7 cardamon pods
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
1/2 tsp edible gelatin
30ml boiling water

Squeeze orange juice into a pan and add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and heat.  Add the diced fresh stonefruit and the extra 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to the boil and then take it to a simmer which allows the fruit to poach in the liquid.  The fruit only needs about 10 minutes to simmer.  Add the spices – you will find it easier if you wrap them in gauze/cloth with kitchen string first.  Turn off the heat & sit for 1hr to allow the spices to diffuse.  Take the spices out – I had fun fishing out mine individually & being really careful to count that what went in was what came out – will definitely wrap mine next time!  I then returned it to the heat to check the consistency and decided to dissolve 1/2 a tsp of edible gelatin in about 30ml of boiling water & added that to my chutney.  My chutney was “set” after about 2hrs in the fridge.   

Roast Pork and Couscous Cigars

Leftover roast pork
1/2 cup dry couscous
Fennel Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Ground Sage and Ground Cinnamon (all ground together in a mortar & pestle) – quantities to your liking – you can also use rosemary, thyme or other spices you prefer with pork
Filo Pastry (Store Bought)
1 egg
Sesame Seeds for coating

Preheat oven to 180oC. Make the couscous as per packet instructions.  Finely dice roast pork. Add pork and spice mix to the cooked couscous.  Use a single sheet of filo to wrap around approximately 3tbsp of mixture in a cigar shape.  As you roll up the cigar, don’t forget to tuck the ends in along the way.  Use a beaten egg to seal the end of the cigar and paint over the top.  Sprinkle on sesame seeds.  Bake in the oven for 25min.  The egg should make the pastry golden in colour.  Check the internal temperature of the cigars is > 60oC.  Serve with stone fruit chutney!