Children get creative in the kitchen and learn healthy eating habits along the way

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Growing up, I heard it a thousand times: "Don't play with your food." Yet, today, I still have the hankering to hammer out the occasional mashed potato sculpture or draw a smiley face in ketchup on my hamburger.

Why' Because it's fun.

As 14 keiki and their parents gathered at the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), they too experienced the fun of playing with food during "Kids in the Kitchen," here, Feb. 23.

The monthly event brought keiki under the age of 5 together for a day of interactive, edible art. The keiki learned the importance of food and well-rounded meals and snacks by artfully arranging the items on their plate.

Participants sat around a long table, which presented various food products, including graham crackers, colored frosting, cream cheese, pretzels and crackers on a round plate.

With help from nearby moms, children then began to construct a fire truck using the edible materials.

"This brings the kids together and teaches them how to work with each other," said family member April Philippi. "It gets them excited."

The pint-sized "chefs" spread red frosting on their graham crackers and used circular butter crackers as wheels. Pretzels posed as a ladder and a strawberry topping created a tasteful siren.

The keiki giggled as they sampled their fire trucks, starting the morning off right with an appropriate sugar rush.

"It's messy," said 2-year-old Mac Frieri, looking at his frosting-covered fingers.

Mac's mom, Molly Frieri, smiled and nodded in agreement.

"This is a great program to let the kids know that food is fun," she said, "and he is learning and experiencing something new."

Kids in the Kitchen teaches motor skills, sharing, the importance of listening, and following directions. It allows children to experience different textures and tastes, according to Dela LaFleur, branch director of ASYMCA.

The program also touches on counting, colors and creativity.

Kids in the Kitchen was introduced at Wheeler Army Airfield (WAAF) nearly three years ago to promote healthy living and a well-rounded diet. The program gives children an opportunity to experiment with food and gain knowledge about the importance of healthy eating.

Most of all, Kids in the Kitchen is meant to be fun.

For more information on Kids in the Kitchen, contact the Armed Services YMCA at 808-624-5645.