Exploring Materials to Make (Non-Edible) Food

This project is inspired by When Lola Visits, the story of a child of an immigrant family whose summers were marked by the arrival of her Lola (Tagalog for grandma). Only when Lola arrives from the Philippines does Summer really start, and OH, all the FOOD that comes with her presence!

This great read is available at our Chill Zone on your next visit to reDiscover Center.

Written by Michelle Sterling (@averyandaugustine); illustrated by Aaron Asis (@aaronasis).

This book references the immigrant experience of family visiting from overseas, highlighting the wonderful foods that come with their culture. Making and eating food is a way for people to come together; it's a shared experience that allows us to bond with others. Food brings people--be it families, friends, and/or cultures--together.

As a facilitator, I love bringing this activity to my tinkerers because it gives you a direct look at how kids look at food. When you ask tinkerers to think about what they like to eat, the first things that come to mind are fun stuff they get at school or at restaurants. Treats like pizza, lollipops, and fun drinks. (*Spoiler Alert: You could make those, too). But when you ask them what they eat at home based on what their grownups make, they talk about more cultural options for food!

Growing up in the Philippines and learning how to cook has also allowed me to appreciate how food helps bring my family together. It lets me share my culture with friends, also, when I bring food to special events.

For this activity, I encourage you (yes, YOU young and grown ups tinkerers!) to think about your favorite foods and make them using recycled materials.

*Fun Fact: Making it using inedible ingredients still feels like the experience of cooking something real. It might look tasty, too, but please don't eat it!

STEP 1 - Planning & Sketching

Before we make anything, we plan.

Take a sheet of paper and some markers. Think about a few things you like to eat. What does it look like? Sketch it out on a sheet of paper. I picked 3 things, some of which appeared in this storybook.

STEP 2 - Gather Your Materials

When looking for materials to use in this project, consider the following questions:

  • What do I have readily available right now?
  • Where can I find new textures to play with?


  • Scissors - to cut any material
  • Tape (Any kind works. We used packing tape and artist tape)
  • Markers to draw
  • *Optional: Hot glue. If so, have some gloves handy! However, when using only paper, liquid or school glue sticks would suffice. Hot glue will be very useful when working with fabric, which I used quite a bit of for this project.

Making Materials

  • Fabric - can be taken from old clothes that are worn and torn or scraps. Most fun if you have them in different colors!
  • Different colors of Paper
  • Food containers - can be molded into food creations or used to "serve" the food creations.
  • Disposable cutlery
  • Cardboard
  • Any other creative reuse materials you could find!

STEP 3 - Explore your materials and plug in the Hot Glue Gun!

This activity is open-ended for free-building! Think about the cutting skills and gluing you've practiced in the past. Bend the paper in ways you've never tried before to make it look like the filling in a pie or cut up scraps of fabric to simulate chopped vegetables and wrap them into a spring roll! There's no wrong way to try it. Experiment with the materials and trust the process.

Watch the video for some techniques to explore:

Check out these cool creations made by other Tinkerers:

Activity Guide by Hanabee Cartagena.


For any tips on how to use specific tools safely, visit our Youtube library for Tiny Techniques. 

Check out this video on how much hot glue you should be using on certain materials.


Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources  for more activity guides, access our Tiny Techniques videos, and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your character, share them with friends and family and show them how you take care of yourself, by filling the void in your life in healthy ways! If you want to share a picture on social media, make sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr. We love to see what you make!

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