Some Basic Projects

Snacking? Not a fan! Let’s talk instead about activities that can promote interest in matters other than food, while keeping restless little hands busy doing creative projects. Let’s aim for a family culture that includes the very important standard of not dragging consumption into every mundane activity. This is a culture that respects artistic creation and recognizes its importance, and acknowledges that some activities are so meaningful that they should not be sullied by consumption.

It is helpful to set a precedent of not eating anything when doing artwork, because it could potentially damage the child’s own artwork or that of another artist. Technically, water should be okay to drink anytime, but if art is happening, keep the glass or bottle away from it!

New faces

Now, consider masks, which offer endless possibilities. Check out after-Halloween sales or party stores for blank white masks, or buy them by the dozen for about $1 apiece from an online retailer. They can be colored with paint or crayon or marker. Stuff can be glued onto them, including hair-like substances at the top or bottom edges.

They can be decorated at any time of year, and there may be a hidden bonus. With any luck, the mask creator will want to wear it all day, which makes eating just a bit more difficult.

Of course, there is another way to make masks, and here it is useful to explain the first two very foundational preparations: hoarding cardboard, and collecting pictures.

Box repurposing

As we have seen, thin cardboard is useful to create missing jigsaw puzzle pieces and indeed, packaging can be an endlessly rich source of art and play materials. Lightweight cardboard is a fabulous unnatural resource. Breakfast cereal and other products come in lightweight boxes that can be cut up and used to make colored, painted, or collage masks. The cardboard has a little bit of “give” to it, so can semi-wrap around the face, tied with string or ribbon. The other needed supplies are really minimal, consisting of scissors and glue sticks.

A different, non-mask possibility is to carefully deconstruct the whole box, and now instead of only one surface, there are six sides of a box to decorate. Markers are effective; crayons or paints can be used as well. Then put it back together, with what used to be the outside on the inside, and the new artwork showing. Secure the seams with tape or glue. Who says art must be flat? Special belongings could be kept in such a fancy box. A gift could be given in it (like maybe, a nice collage mask).

The glory of collage

Even if your own budget does not run to magazine subscriptions, anybody can get hold of slick-page magazines full of color photographs for free from a hairdresser, doctor’s office, library donation shelf, thrift store, or friends and family. If there is any concern, a grownup could screen the material, tear out the pages with nice pictures of animals or whatever, and throw the rest away.

Here is a tip. Save any life-size faces, because they can be chopped apart, and their features mixed and matched to create — ta-dah! — collage masks. Depending on their skill level, kids can trim up the edges of the photos that will become part of their artwork. Don’t worry, they will get better at it, and meanwhile, they are not using their hands to feed their faces.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Images by Lisa Ann Yount, Molly Millions, Alex Pascual Guardia, Ralf Steinberger, Sheila Sund, Jasmine Cat, and Amy fricano/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources