The Ultimate Food Challenge

The Ultimate Food Challenge


I was dreaming up a way to get my babes excited about trying new foods. I was growing quite sick of making the same kid acceptable meals each week, and very tired of slaving away (that may be a bit of an overstatement) on new meals, only to be followed by the time-intensive coaxing necessary to get said meal INTO their bodies. I decided a challenge was in order…enter: The Ultimate Food Challenge

Now, I could of been satisfied by selecting a large piece of paper to post on the door for the challenge, but any of you who know me well, know that wasn’t gonna happen. Enter project #2…I’ve always wanted to create a chalkboard on a wall or door in my home for penning thoughts of inspiration or sweet nothings. The two projects married, and since I was not, there wasn’t anyone telling me I couldn’t paint one right there on the door in the dining room, and hang a custom trim frame around it. Moving on…

I wanted the challenge to be fun, I wanted the kids to be excited about it, and I wanted them to be in charge of their adventurousness. 

I decided that we’d keep two columns, one for each child, and as they tried new foods we would add them to the board. Now, we’re not talking a reluctant minnow bite from the edge of a crumb on the particular food item – we’re talking one large bite, chewed and swallowed. I introduced the challenge as a privilege, and not being a huge fan of the overuse of ‘immediate reward’ (material or physical, that is) I settled on offering a trip to the DQ for a celebration ice cream treat once the board was completely full.  

I could not have anticipated the level of participation this would ignite. The kids were eager to try most anything that came their way. We laughed, we chanted, we cheered and at the end of the day, they were gaining confidence and bravery as a result of the challenge. It also became a contest between the two if one was to pull ahead. The game was ON. 

There are many ways to go about making a food challenge board. You could use tag or poster board, a dry erase board, hang an existing chalkboard in clear sight (that is key), or hang a large picture frame with a chalkboard painted insert.   

If you are interested in going the chalkboard route (pictured above) these are the steps I took: 

-Decide on the location and size of the chalkboard you’d like.

-Tape off the area on a door or wall – use painter’s tape, and a level and tape measure, to keep lines parallel.

-If you are dealing with a varnish finish, like I did on my old wood door, prime the area first. Use a foam roller for best results (that keeps bubbles and bumps off the surface)

-Once the primer is completely dry, according to manufacturers directions, add a coat of chalkboard paint. This paint is now available in many different colors as well, but I liked the traditional feel of the black. I think the writing pops more as well. 

-When the first coat of paint is dry I used a very fine sandpaper to smooth the surface a bit, and then added a second coat. 

-Choose a color and style for your chalkboard trim. I chose a warm mustard yellow…it’s dreamy against the crisp black board. 

-I used a chop saw with a sharp blade to cut the appropriate angles in the trim to build a frame for the board. This is something you’ll want to enlist a handyman/woman to help with. It can be a touchy game.

-Finally, I painted the trim pieces (before hanging) and then mounted them to the door with brad nails to form a frame – you don’t need them to support much weight, just hold the pieces in place. 

Funny, my neighbors no longer cast confused looks my way, for example, when I march out of the house with safety googles on and saw something right there on my front stoop. If ‘very pregnant woman rolling large hollow log down the backyard hill for a custom planter’ didn’t phase them, this wouldn’t either. They’ve really seen it all. (I need to shout out to my parents for instilling those skills – love you!)

Let the games begin! I bought some inexpensive colored chalk, sketched a bold game show-esque title, and gave them each a column to record their conquests. As a reminder, I think it’s key to be large, in plain sight, and in the eating area in order to be top of mind. 

Occasionally, when we’re out and about and they are presented with something especially ‘different’, I can see the mental process that ensues while they contemplate the bite (analyzing texture, color, smell), and after a brief pause they’ll look up and ask, “can this go on my food challenge?” Why yes, yes it can.

This exercise has made a huge difference in my children’s willingness and enthusiasm to try new foods…whether there is a challenge in progress or not. It has helped to form a habit that goes beyond our dining room table.  

I would love to see what you create! Message me with your finished product.



Leave a Comment