Connecting with Kids Through Food Art

Food art pony made with pancakes and fruit
Photo: Shannon Mazzei, DTR

Food art was something I fell into. Let me explain …

Weekends are about the only time of the week I cook breakfast. I work during the week like so many busy parents, and afterward there is school, homework, scouts and endless cleaning that keeps my family in what feels like an endless rush. My children, 4 and 8, and I started to notice on Saturdays that all we did was play games on our phones, devices, etc. I figured it was only once a week — what’s the big deal?

But then I started to feel disconnected from my family. I wanted to try something where I could just hang out with my kids. Typically, we have the most fun with projects — arts and crafts, baking, creating things, messy stuff. When we all have a common goal, it can be a lot of fun.

Enter food art. Food is an ultimate connector.  Memories and emotions often are created over something all of humanity has in common — eating. Plus, my kids like to play with food, and it turns out I do, too. And by doing things such as combining fruits, veggies and pancakes — I use a lot of pancakes in my food art projects — into critters and recognizable characters, my kids are able to experience new foods and contribute their own ideas to our creations.

When we do food art projects together, I take their advice and let them help. Sometimes our projects take a while to create, and that’s OK. With everything being so immediate in the digital world, we often forget that skills are not instantly developed — like family relationships, they are something that develop and grow over time. For us, food art has become a new way to learn about each other and encourage creative thinking, plus we get to eat super fun food!

Below I’ve put together instructions for a fairly simple starter food art project: a pony.

Pony Food Art Instructional

Required Tools:

  • 1 large oval-shaped cutter
  • 1 medium oval-shaped cutter
  • 1 small circle press
  • 1 sharp paring knife
  • 1 cutting board

Food Items:

  • Five 6- to 8-inch pancakes, one light and 4 browned
  • 1 apple
  • 1 strawberry
  • 2 blueberries

Process:

  • Place the light pancake on a cutting board and press in the large oval cutter. Repeat process for 2 of the browned pancakes.

  • Use medium oval cutter to cut 5 oval shapes from the 3 remaining brown pancakes. You should be able to get 2 ovals from each pancake, with some remaining. Save leftover pieces.

  • Slice light oval pancake in half horizontally. One half will be used for the elongated face.
  • Cut bottom 1½ inches off 4 medium-shaped brown pancake ovals for pony legs.
  • Using leftover light pancake pieces, slice thin strips for mane and tail; cut into longer and shorter pieces for different lengths.
  • Cut 2 small triangles from leftover brown pancake pieces for ears. Cut strawberry into 2 small triangles for inner ears.
  • Leaving skin on, thinly slice apple, then shape four slices into trapezoid shapes for hooves.
  • Press small circle cutter into other apple slices for the whites of the eyes. Half one blueberry and use for eye irises.
  • Cut other blueberry into 2 small strips and 2 dots for eyebrows and nostrils. When done, your pieces should look like this:

Using the photo at the top of this post for reference, assemble pony body, then add fruit and other details to complete.

Shannon Mazzei on FacebookShannon Mazzei on Instagram
Shannon Mazzei
Shannon Mazzei, DTR, is a registered diet technician based in Elkins Park, PA. She is employed full time at a residential eating disorder facility, and has developed Food Art Fun as a kid friendly food art platform to encourage creativity and fun in the kitchen. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.