Healthy food activities for preschoolers can take many forms and they don’t have to be time consuming or difficult. A variety of healthy food activities for preschoolers can be woven into the curriculum throughout the seasons, and be genuinely fun and effective in helping children to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Whether you’re a preschool teacher, homeschooling parent or registered dietitian looking to host activities in your local community, we’ve got you covered with ready to launch activities that preschoolers will gobble up!
Best practices for healthy food activities for preschoolers are to incorporate activities all year long, from food books at storytime to counting activities with baby carrots. We can learn about healthier choices at snack time, lunch and throughout the whole day!
Many fun exposures to new foods help them to no longer feel new or scary. Instead of calling foods “good” or “bad”, focus your teaching around “all foods fit” and everyday foods vs. sometimes foods.
Let’s dive in!
Start with the basics
It can be really confusing to know what your preschoolers are supposed to eat. To begin, lean on registered dietitians to know what nutrients a preschooler needs to thrive, what a proper portion is (you’d be surprised!) and the ultimate question – what’s for snack?
Kiddos love to help – that is why our Toddlers & Preschoolers Nutrition Guide comes with a complete nutrition guide as well as ways to safely include your preschooler with food prep and even dinner conversation prompts to use when you just need some new ideas. Picky eater? We’ve got tips for that, too!
Decorate your classroom
Maybe your child is going to school in person or maybe you’re decorating your home school, but either way, dress up boring walls and let your child explore new fruits and vegetables. Our Fruit Alphabet Cards are a great choice for colorful wellness decor.
Try new fruits and vegetables
It can take as many as 5, 10 or even 20 positive exposures in a fun environment for a hesitant eater to try (and like) new foods. And if you’re not quite sure how to pick out fruits and veggies, it may limit the varieties that your kids or students get to explore.
Arm yourself with our complimentary guides so that you feel comfortable exploring new foods, too! We have a guide for Veggie Selection and Fruit Selection. When you feel confident, that helps your food explorer feel confident, too!
Guess that smell
Every food has multiple sensory aspects; it’s color, smell, taste, texture and even temperature. We can explore food with all five senses using our free My Five Senses Worksheet. If your preschoolers are feeling overwhelmed with too many new sensations, trying new foods might not feel so fun.
Engage your preschooler’s sense of smell with games such as Guess the Spice, adding vanilla extract to blowing bubbles and picking fresh herbs. Let new smells be a game and the next time that they smell those herbs and spices during meal prep, they’ll have a fun association with it rather than fear or overwhelm.
Many research studies have found that kids who are involved in gardening activities are more adventurous with eating fruits and vegetables (SOURCE). Plus, it is fun!
Our gardening guide (bonus: it is also available in Spanish) helps you and your preschooler to dig in! Whether it is a jar of sprouts on the table, a pot of fresh herbs on the windowsill, a tomato planter on the patio or a full-blown garden, growing fruits, vegetables and herbs helps kids to eat them!
Celebrate with healthier choices
It can seem like candy and junky foods are around every corner in the schools these days. From rewarding children for participation to celebrating every birthday and holiday, we love to celebrate and reward with food but tend to gravitate towards the junkier stuff. How about some new ideas on how to enjoy and engage with healthy food?
Our School Wellness Library helps to empower parents and teachers who feel like they’re swimming upstream wanting more wholesome choices for their students. From healthy fundraisers to packing healthy backpacks for kids to take home over the weekend and even school gardening ideas; this resource is robust!
It is possible to enjoy parties and make healthy choices – we show you how!
As our preschooler food explorers are getting to know new foods, they might not be wild about them right away, and that’s ok! Avoid asking “do you like it?” because that doesn’t leave as much room to explore the taste, sight, smell, and texture. Instead, using our Placemats for Kids, ask them to compare and talk about different foods, especially fruits and veggies.
Using our Kids Taste Test Worksheet empowers your preschoolers to be food explorers. Try comparing four different yogurts and comparing how sweet they are, what they look like, and even reading the numbers on the label to see how many grams of sugar the yogurt contains.
Another fun, low-pressure activity you can do at home or in the classroom with your preschooler is to compare similar foods in a taste test. Compare different leafy greens, different varieties of apples or different kinds of tomatoes and explore. Is one more sweet? More bitter? Which one is the crunchiest?
Empower your food explorer with new vocabulary to give them ways to describe food beyond just if they like it or not. Bonus? Your preschooler just ate new foods!
Reading stories is a great way to learn about different cultures and cooking styles around the world, to learn about different food jobs, such as farming and cooking, and to learn about differences in the ways that people eat. We can explore eating with chopsticks, eating with your hands, and sitting on the floor instead of a chair. There are kids books about almost everything these days, including What is Pickle Pie, a story that encourages your preschooler to try new fruits and vegetables. What makes this tale even more fun for your preschoolers is that it is told by a dog.
Check out your local library and bookstore for even more books. You can also tune in to a virtual read along on YouTube. Your preschoolers will eat it up and you get an opportunity to delegate.
Ready to unearth buried treasure or dinosaurs? Bury toys and treasures in sensory bins and have your preschoolers dig them up! From plastic dinosaurs to wooden fruits and veggies, it is good for kiddos to bury their hands in different textures. Dried rice, dried beans, and oatmeal are all good candidates to bury treasure in, and give kids a chance to play with their food.
Count and stack
While it is easy to want the goal for kids to be “just take a bite,” if they’re overwhelmed or nervous about an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable, that plan can backfire.
One low-pressure way to get kiddos involved is to use pieces of fruits as vegetables to play games. For example, slices of carrots and cucumber are now playing pieces for tic-tac-toe! Cubes of different colored bell peppers are sorted and counted. Celery and carrot sticks are used to build a lincoln log cabin.
We can combine sensory experience with practicing letters, numbers, and shapes. Pour applesauce on a cookie sheet or plate and have kiddos practice drawing in it. If touching the food is too overwhelming, kids can use a carrot stick or celery stick instead. Mashed potatoes and whipped cream can also be fun.
Use our Fruit Alphabet Cards as decor and inspiration for the fun!
Mimic what superheroes eat
Kids love to mimic their heroes. Ask them what their teddy bears, favorite superheroes and movie characters eat: your preschoolers may intuitively talk about healthier choices. If your child loves the Hulk, use that to your advantage! A green smoothie is now a Hulk smoothie, guacamole is now Hulk Dip.
Superheroes need fruits and vegetables to have strong muscles and a brilliant brain; use our POWER UP Kids to Eat Like a Superhero nutrition kit to fuel these productive conversations with your kiddo. This works well in groups big and small, so whether you’re teaching your own preschooler in your own kitchen or have a wiggly classroom of preschoolers, superheroes can inspire food exploration!