Tag Archives: fussy eater tips

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

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

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!

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