Food for fun

We invite you to consider ways of bringing some fun into mealtimes with some possible ideas offered here tapping into physical and mental activities with ideas for those who are more able and those who are in the later experiences of their dementia.

We would suggest planning a themed meal as part of this course, and then reflecting on what you have learnt from the experience.

Suggested time – 4 hours including preparation, time to run an activity and reflect on the experience


  • Decide in advance of the activity what you might need to bring in with you from home. 
  • Discuss with your Team how you might want to stage the environment to connect with your theme.  Think about what you can put out on tables.
  • Ask the Kitchen team to purchase food items and equipment related to your planned activity e.g. chopping boards and knives.
  • Find out more from people or their families what their favourite recipes were or whether they enjoyed cooking.


  1. Favourite foods and drinks – or least favourite?
  2. What was something you used to enjoy eating as a child?
  3. Do you enjoy cooking?
  4. What would be your most popular choice on a menu if you were in a restaurant? 
  5. If you were ordering a drink at bar, what would you choose?

How will you present these conversation starters?  e.g. create some ‘chat cards’ to place out on tables.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED – Some possible ideas

  • Recipe books or recipe cards
  • Kitchen items – wooden spoons, mixing bowls, cake tins, jelly moulds
  • Packets or jars of familiar foods – cereals, rice, jam, peanut butter etc.
  • ‘What’s that food?’ Interesting fruit and vegetables which might not be familiar to everyone
  • Song sheets with food-related songs


  1. Round a table, put out food and equipment needed for something like a vegetable soup, a fruit salad or a cake.
  2. Find different ‘jobs’ for individuals involved – some might just enjoy watching, whilst others will be more actively involved.  Some people will be able to do more complex activities like peeling and chopping.  Others might feel more comfortable doing more simple elements like stirring ingredients in a bowl or rolling dough.
  3. You might need to get things started, so if you are making a fruit salad for example, start to peel the bananas or oranges and invite people to help you out.
  4. Encourage people to share their own tips, whilst preparing the food – do they have a secret ingredient they might add e.g. cinnamon in a desert or a bay leave or nutmeg in a soup.
  5. Celebrate the finished product and where possible enjoy it together!


  1. Pass round some of the objects of food items from above.  What would you make with them?
  2. Invite people to explore the object.
  3. Tell a food related story – you might want to share yours first – this might be a happy story of a time with your family which was very special, or a ‘disaster’ story when everything went wrong with the menu or the event.
  4. If you have people who come from different parts of the world in your group, invite people to share a food or a recipe from that country or culture.

TO MAKE IT SIMPLER – a one to one activity or for someone who is in the later experiences of dementia

  • Explore different tastes and smells together.  Choose a range of different herbs and spices for example and invite people to smell them.
  • Create some taste ‘treats’ – fresh fruit with melted chocolate, popcorn, smoothie drinks, varieties of cheeses to try out.


  • Invite people to design a three course Menu for a special occasion – a wedding, a Christmas meal, a Sunday lunch, a romantic picnic.
  • Write a shopping list of all the things you will need to buy for your menu of choice.


  • Laminate any pictures you use so that they can easily be wiped clean.
  • Invite everyone to wash hands before doing any food preparation activity.
  • Depending on your risk assessment, you will need to decide whether the food prepared can be eaten at the end of an activity.   In some cases, you might encourage people to only eat the food they prepared themselves, so you might have individual bowls for the fruit salads for example.


  • Be sensitive to food allergies or intolerances and special dietary or cultural needs, when choosing food-related activities.
  • If using alcohol, be aware of people who have a history of alcoholism or alcohol dependency.


  • Bring in a recipe or food which connects with your own life story.
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