Teaching children in preschool about healthy eating can positively influence their nutritional choices for a lifetime. This is important because the Centers for Disease Control says inactivity, coupled with an abundance of unhealthy foods and bigger portions, has led to growing numbers of obese children in America. One way to teach young children about the benefits of making wise food choices is to use simple crafts that keep them engaged while they’re learning about nutrition.
This activity allows preschoolers to create personalized place mats and then to decorate them with healthy food choices. Give each child a piece of construction paper and some art supplies such as crayons, pencils, markers and stickers. Allow time for the children to decorate their papers. Laminate each paper, or apply contact paper so that the place mats will be resistant to moisture. Have the students cut out pictures of various foods from magazines and place the pictures in a pile. Instruct the children to select foods to place on their mats and then talk about the foods they selected and how they can help or harm the body.
You can use this craft when you are teaching about the food groups. Talk about the food groups that are represented in spaghetti: grains (whole-grain noodles), vegetables (tomato sauce with veggies) and meat (beef, sausage or chicken). Cook a pot of whole-grain noodles. Drain the noodles and allow them to cool. Give your students some art paper or construction paper along with different colors of washable paint. Demonstrate how to paint with spaghetti by dipping a noodle into some paint and dragging it across the paper. Let the children create their own spaghetti paintings. You might want to use smocks or other protective clothing for this activity, as it can be messy.
This craft uses the healthy snack of popcorn. Talk with your preschoolers about which snacks are healthy and which are not. Pop some non-buttered popcorn. Give each child a sheet of construction paper and some colored glue. Instruct the students to draw designs or pictures using the glue. Then have them cover all of the glue on their papers with popcorn. Press the popcorn down gently to make it stick and allow the drawings to dry thoroughly before hanging them up for display. You also can save some popcorn for a class snack after the activity.
Give each preschooler a white paper plate and talk about what kinds of foods they could put on the plate. Help them distinguish between foods that are good for their bodies and foods that aren’t nutritious. Give the preschoolers age-appropriate magazines and safety scissors and ask them to find pictures of healthy foods. Once they’ve cut several pictures out, share them with the class and work together to decide if they’re healthy or not. Hand back the images of healthy foods and have the preschoolers glue them to their paper plates to create a nutritious meal.