When was the last time you fiddled with your fork and drew a picture in the last bits of sauce on your plate? If it was the last time you had a plate in front of you, you’d be in good company. Drawing in our plates is a form of food play we can all relate to, and it’s a good place to start with kids, too.
Playing in food with a utensil is a lot like painting or drawing, so it comes pretty naturally and there’s an opportunity at the end of every meal! This is a great way to get a picky eater to interact with foods they ‘don’t like’ that are part of the family meal and a great opportunity for open-ended play.
Lots of families have the ‘you have to try everything on your plate rule,’ which works for some kids and doesn’t work for others. If your picky eater literally shakes when presented with a new food, gags to the point of throwing up (intentionally or unintentionally) or is maybe not able to chew and swallow all of the foods on the table, trying a bite of everything may not be realistic or safe. Building positive experiences with food is way more important than getting a child to taste a bite that makes them vomit. But I do love the idea of interacting in some way with everything on the table.
Try making it a game or a contest to make the best picture with the scraps and drizzles on everyone’s plate (and maybe foods on the table your picky eater didn’t try). You could give a prize of a favorite dessert or treat to the night’s picture-winner (perhaps a dessert you were going to serve anyway, but it’s so much more fun and engaging when it’s a game).
Enjoy! Have fun and happy food play!