Get your kids in the kitchen and ready for a screen free summer with life skills bingo. Anni from Beautiful Camouflage shows us how to plan a menu with kids.
My husband and I are foodies. Our children? Not so much.
That’s why I’m super excited to share today’s Screen-free Summer Life Skills Bingo installment: how to plan a menu with kids. My dear friend Anni has some fantastic ideas for getting your kiddos involved in the kitchen and on the road to healthy, adventurous eating.
Not one who particularly enjoys unloading children at a grocery store more than once a week, I have learned throughout my years as a mother to aim for one grocery store trip a week. If I can’t get it all in one fell swoop, chances are there will come a day in the middle of the week where I’m surveying food in our house, and leaving everything up to chance, which means the likelihood of ordering pizza increases exponentially.
With the goal of only going to the grocery store once a week, nothing has become more important than the steps leading up to the grocery store trip. The most crucial step toward organizing my brain around one trip sounds so simple… and is usually the most tedious.
I typically use various methods in menu planning… I use a calendar, my phone, and more recently (and more often than not), I use my grocery list.
This past week, as part of the Screen-Free Summer series offered by Ginny, I decided to pull my oldest into this weekly activity which helps our family run a little smoother.
Challenge is, my son is four.
While he recognizes many letters and numbers, he’s not reading or writing yet, which presented me with an opportunity to explain to him why I make meals the way I do – with an emphasis on nutritiously rounded plates. But, he wasn’t going to be able to read whatever I wrote down.
Pinterest failed me when I attempted to find “teaching your preschooler how to menu plan.” And, while I love the idea of making life lessons visually stimulating for my tactile learner, I was at a loss of how to do so, save printing off an insane amount of pictures of various meals.
So, I did the next best thing I could think of…
I blew up my calendar…
…no… not in a serious manner!
Instead, I took the days we were most likely to need a “menu plan,” (Monday-Saturday), and put a graph on a poster board which was the size of 11x14in.
Not wanting to waste an opportunity to teach my little man about nutrition, I then headed to the USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov website, to download a beautiful two-sided visual of how a plate should look, as well as the various food groups. This particular visual is described on their site as Healthy Eating for Preschoolers mini poster. We then sat down with the print-outs and the makeshift calendar, broken up by days of the week.
As we created the menu, we discussed the various components needed for breakfast, guiding my son on our family meal breakdown of protein, grain, and fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner consisting heavily on proteins, grains, and veggies, and then snacks combining protein and fruit.
We worked for about an hour, dissecting some of my son’s favorite meals, or some of the meals he routinely chooses to not eat, as we figured out where to place them for the following week.
My son then scoured our pantry and refrigerator for items which would be required for the specific meals, helping build my weekly shopping list.
At the end of the day, I realized I wanted to give my son another visual, and so enlisted the aid of a trusty white board. I wrote the next day on the board, put the date so we could continue working on number recognition, and then separated the meals and snacks for the day.
The following morning, as soon as I read off the menu, there was no hesitancy in what he would eat for breakfast! The only deviation for the day was the snacking, which allowed him to add some crackers to his day. And, after every meal, he was placed in charge of lining through what he’d eaten, which made me feel excited that I was slipping in some fine motor skills and coordination!
Not to be outdone, the youngest in the family found ways to entertain herself, by unloading cabinets in the kitchen, while her older brother and mom were sitting at the kitchen table. I would like to think, since she chose the brown paper bags, that we made this a family-friendly activity!
As with most child-driven events, taking the time to include my son added extra time to something which was already tedious for me. However, sharing this activity with him increased his questions and our discussion regarding food and health. He was even eager to share his new-found information with his dad over dinner throughout the week!
I’m looking forward to the day where we can sit down with my son’s planner or calendar, and even perhaps build a budget while menu planning. I’ve realized the sky is limitless with this particular life skill!
Have you brought your preschooler into the “menu planning” realm of life skills?
How do you incorporate their choices and decisions into a menu plan for the family?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Anni is a proud Army wife and mother to two young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked extensively in both clinical settings, and as a case manager. Since the birth of her children, she has taken a hiatus from paid employment, and devotes time to volunteering at whichever military chapel the family attends, and currently blogs about topics of Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Did you enjoy this post? Grab your bingo card, play along, and check out the other great activities in the Screen-Free Summer Life Skills Bingo Series!