When early childhood teachers combine food and crafts in the classroom, they get a recipe for sensory and creative experiences that have lifelong benefits for children. On any given day, it’s not uncommon for kids in childcare classrooms to paint with pudding, spaghetti sauce or yogurt; make collages out of dry beans and rice; use fruit and veggies to make imprints; craft spiders out of Oreo cookies; or create snow scenes with marshmallows.
Early childhood educators understand the advantages of offering children a variety of materials to aid in their mental and emotional development. Using food as crafts allows young children to flex their creative muscles and generate ideas to reinvent things and turn them into something new. Although there are many benefits to using food as crafts, this practice has some downsides too.
Pros of Using Food as Crafts
Crafting with food not only fires up kids’ imaginations, this activity improves their concentration, small motor skills, hand-eye coordination and their ability to follow simple directions. And the end product, though not always perfect, gives youngsters a sense of accomplishment and bolsters their self-esteem.
According to the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service, sensory experiences build the connections that guide brain development. When children craft with food, they have the opportunity to use their senses to learn about textures, consistency, aromas, and tastes. And since kids are most receptive to learning during their early years, the more sensory experiences they have before the age of six, the better.
Cons of Using Food as Crafts
Using food for creative projects can send the silent message to children that it’s okay to be wasteful. In addition to encouraging waste, crafting with food can also put kids’ health in jeopardy. When youngsters handle food, talk over it, or pass it around before eating it, germs can spread and increase the risk of infectious illnesses.
A large number of edible crafts also contain sugary foods that if consumed in excess, can increase the risk of tooth decay, obesity, and obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Using food as crafts can also send conflicting messages to kids about the importance of eating healthy.
Using food for creative projects gives children permission to explore, discover, and think outside of the box. However, this practice can be considered wasteful, unsanitary, and contradictory of efforts to encourage proper eating habits. After weighing the pros and cons of using food as crafts, early childhood educators can decide if this is something they want to implement in their classrooms.