Dirt, Boogers and Other Favourite Toddler Foods

Getting your kids to eat nutritious food is one of the most fraught and frustrating aspects of being a parent, and it doesn’t take long to realise that you can lead a toddler to dinner, but you can’t make them eat. Ironically, the very same children who refuse to consume your delicious home-cooked meals are more than happy to devour a wide variety of non-food items, most of which are completely unfit for human consumption. It’s kind of insulting, frankly.

Here is a handy guide to common non-food items that your kid just loves to eat:



Playdough makes up 92% of the base of the “Non-Food Pyramid”. If you are able to make it yourself with a simple recipe of flour, water and salt it almost resembles a real meal, so you can snicker in your walk-pantry whilst tricking your fussy children into eating actual food. Bonus points for colouring it green with a sneaky combination of pureed kale and silverbeet in order to up the nutrient content. The store bought stuff is almost as good but it will make them poo in lurid rainbows. 

Try this: 5-Minute Microwave Playdough Recipe

Dirt and sand 

Dirt is the nutrient-rich superfood of the non-food world. If you see your kid munching on handfuls of dirt be reassured that they’re getting their daily quota of microorganisms, rocks and phosphorus (which, errr, would be great if they were some sort of native plant or deciduous conifer). Alternately, kids who follow clean-eating principles tend to refer the crisp white notes of mineral sand from coastal beaches or the playgroup sandpit. It’s kind of like the quinoa of non-food for children. You can add it to everything.

Paint, crayons and textas

Fussy kids often insist on all-white food, and woe betide the parent who tries to slip something coloured onto their plate. This rule goes completely out the window when we are talking about non-food items. Kids love chowing down on crayons, paint and textas, and the irony is that they will happily go to town on the green ones too, even if they usually regard anything that colour with a combination of suspicion and disgust. If it’s any consolation, I imagine there must be some sort of plant-based pigment in there somewhere.

This will help: Edible Finger Paint Recipe


Boogers are the oysters of kiddie cuisine. It involves them diligently fishing around for a fresh catch and inspecting it for quality before finally popping it into their mouth. During the tasting they wear the same thoughtful expression that professional sommeliers do when they’re assessing a freshly-corked bottle of fancy wine. “Mmmm… I much preferred last week’s fuller-bodied booger, but this has a fruity vigour that delights the palate.” Kids take their nose nuggets very seriously. 

House keys 

Given half the chance your baby will gnaw away on a grotty set of keys with the sort of spirited enthusiasm you will never see reserved for rusk sticks or avocado slices. Full disclosure: I’m of curious mind, so I replicated this experience for the purposes of this article. Suffice to say it was like licking a stainless steel hand rail on a packed commuter train, and I really don’t recommend it unless you enjoy the taste of body odour and metal. Babies are weird.

Random tumbleweeds of floor fluff

These delightful little appetisers contain a random combination of hair, stray nail clippings, cockroach legs, food crumbs, dead skin, dust bunnies and other indeterminate organic matter (possibly from intergalactic asteroids). Kids love ‘em, until they put them in their mouth – at which point you will see the cutest bleurgh-face ever. If you aren’t quick enough to stop them they will collect handfuls of these babies from under the sofa, where they breed beyond the reach of even the most sophisticated swivel sweeper.

Duck poo

Yes, I had to stop my toddler from gobbling down a handful of duck poo, and yes it insults me that this very same child refused to even touch my lovingly-prepared casserole the very same day. Urgh. Kids.

Out of curiosity I did a quick poll of fellow parents and – to my delight and dismay – received a fascinating set of replies that included Lego pieces, baby wipes, thongs, grass, money, paper, pet food, pool noodles and their own poo. Yeah, like my broccoli pasta bake is the most evil-tasting thing in the world…. Sigh.

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Image: Getty