Tag Archives: 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!


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!


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.  http://www.sense-ationalmealtimes.com.au SM_sense-ational-mealtimes-book_Cover

St Patrick’s Day Drinks

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

No this post isn’t about Guinness … It is about green smoothies.

Smoothies are a great way to pack in lots of nutrition into your meals. Smoothies are a big hit at our place! If I have any smoothie left over, its poured into little ice block moulds for a special dessert or afternoon treat later down the track.

Green smoothies are all the rage at the moment – kids like calling it “monster milk”.  It is handy to keep some green seedless grapes or a chopped banana in your freezer so you can get a smoothie ready when your heart desires. Or you can use frozen banana for a healthy ice cream base and frozen grapes as a healthy sorbet base.

To celebrate St Patrick’s day we had a green smoothie for lunch with a green main meal of risoni pasta, peas & salmon.

Today’s smoothie was:
1 cup frozen green grapes
1 tub of banana kids yoghurt (100g)
Leafy parts of a large kale stalk
1 cup of water

(makes enough for 1 large or 2 medium smoothies)

What is your favourite smoothie recipe?


Happy Eating!