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We all go through phases with our children's diets. (Heck, I go through phases in my own diet as my tastes change throughout the month. So what can I expect?) But kids are notorious for being "picky," "difficult" and "plain."

And truth be told, my kids have thus far been truly amazing little eaters. My first has very openly tasted foods most of her life, leaning towards a less-interested stage when she hit four years of age, but nonetheless, discovering for herself what she truly enjoys and absolutely detests.

My second has always been a bit more choosey. She knew as a baby that she couldn't stand the sweetness of sweet potatoes. And she still can't stand them. There's just no fooling her into eating something she doesn't like.

And now my little man-babe, chowing his food down ever-so-happily. And suddenly last week he's been bewitched by autonomy. Finally. Yes, he wants to feed himself. Correction: He will ONLY eat if he feeds himself. So much for keeping anything in the kitchen clean for the next year. Oh well.

And between these three varied little palates, I at times act as the spin doctor. "No, no, that's not broccoli [pinching a broccoli floret at its stem], this is a bouquet for my beauty." Seriously, one can't help but eat food when it becomes magic. Usually.

And through this all, my healthy little vegetarian kids have eaten pretty darned well. They have different favorite ingredients of our salads. Certain lovable soups. And they love picnics and tea parties. Any iffy foods have a high chance of being consumed if served at one of these two soirees. But a little additional inspiration in the food department never hurts.

So last month we did some Food Art. And I can easily say that it's been my favorite craft-activity of the year. (Minus perhaps the pudding painting. Hmmm...must post on that soon.)

Food Art is an activity that's:
* Frugal...especially if the foods aren't completely mangled in the process. (We ate ours in a "Food Art Minestrone" afterward.)
* Simple...with no prep work needed.
* And, easy...while being super-entertaining.

How to Get Your Kids Started on Food Art

All ages

What You Need:
A variety of whole foods that inspire

Getting Started:
1. Shop for/pick from your garden foods that inspire you and your children to create. Try your hardest to involve your kids in this step, as it will allow them a voice in selecting things they want to work with. It's also a great chance for new foods to be introduced in a fun way.

2. If your child needs some visual inspiration (which not all children naturally crave), take a look at some good links online to get the creative juices flowing. There are also some brilliant books available for kids who get really into it (google: "Food Art," books).

3. Now take out the food you'll be using and get started dreaming and scheming up characters, scenes and ideas. (Note: If working with young children, consider offering a small amount of choices as too many can actually stifle the creative bug.)

4. Teach your child how to use the toothpicks to secure pieces of food together. (By the end of our character making process, both of my girls (ages three and five) had figured out how to use the toothpicks.)

5. Keep at it. Build. Cut. Poke. And create.

6. Consider photographing the creations. This part of the process is of course optional. But as food art will "go bad," a photo can capture the piece to be enjoyed later. (I draped a large sheet of butcher paper on the kitchen table for the kids to arrange scenes on.)

7. Now you're at step one again if you choose. You've got creations that are just waiting for story writing, story telling, character development, poems, songs, movement. See what your kids come up with.

8. And finally, consider using some or all of the food art in a meal to honor the nutrition and beauty of each of the foods. (We made a delicious minestrone that was eaten whole-heartedly by all.)

The girls created these characters. May they provide your kids with inspiration for their own Food Art fun!

P.S. Try as you might, it's hard to resist the lure of Food Art. As I often don't partake in the craft or activity myself so as not to set a standard or expectation, this zucchini was calling out to me, "I need a hula skirt." Cheers y'all!

Join me at RosieDreams, where I share my approach to frugal, simple and green family living.

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