To Eat or Not to Eat

By Activity Bank on Dec 19, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Susan E. Edwards and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

Meal preparation is an important life skill, and equally important is the ability to determine what is edible and what is not. With guidance, students can be responsible for selecting their own foods. This activity covers kitchen safety skills, meal planning, health awareness, problem solving and reasoning. Lessons include English Language Arts and Independent Living Skills.


  • Edible food and drinks: water, crackers, apple, cereal, juice, cookies
  • Non-edible items: cleaning liquids, soap, laundry detergent


  • After grocery shopping, have students put away a variety of edible foods and non-edible cleaning supplies.
  • Talk about which ones they can eat and drink and which ones they cannot.
  • Discuss why one cannot eat or drink soap, cleaning liquids, etc.
  • Demonstrate that many edible and non-edible items come in similar packaging: a box of cereal and a box of powdered soap, a bottle of chocolate syrup and a bottle of dishwashing liquid.
  • Set up a system for storing foods and cleaning supplies. Always store them separately and always have them clearly labeled. Poison stickers may be made or purchased to place on cleaning supplies. Braille labels should also be used. Use a non-preferred texture to label non-edible items. For example, label all poison items with sandpaper. Establish rules: for example, do not eat or drink anything unless you know what it is, or always ask someone for help.


  • Play a categorizing game: have students sort the items into two groups: edible and non-edible.
  • Expand the activity by talking about foods that certain people cannot eat due to allergies. Focus on individual allergies of students participating in this activity.
  • Talk about which foods they must avoid and why.

Hint: Set up situations in which students are responsible for avoiding poisons and foods that give them an allergic reaction.


edible collage