Although it may seem backwards, play-based food activities can be very helpful when introducing or exposing your picky eater to new foods! This is especially true for kids with sensory issues. Food play allows children to learn about new foods through repeated exposure, food play, and sensory exploration. They can learn about new foods through sight, smell, touch, and sound. It also gives them the opportunity to interact with foods without pressure to eat or try the foods. While tasting may not happen right away, kids are more likely to try new foods with repeated exposure, patience, and a fun, low-pressure environment! Here are some fun activities to help your child become more comfortable with new foods:
Hold any pieces of food in front of your eyes and start up a game of peek-a-boo! It’s a great way to increase exposure to new foods in a fun way with young children!
Cheerios and Fruit Loops are the perfect shape to make jewelry! Practice stringing the cereal pieces and make some bracelets and necklaces.
No one wants their child eating sand, but brown sugar is a different story! Brown sugar has a similar consistency to sand but is not dangerous if eaten. You can fill a tray with brown sugar and add in sand toys or other little toys to dig for and play with.
Cover the kitchen table with paper, make some instant pudding, throw in some paint brushes, then have some fun! Children can have a blast painting on the paper with the pudding. Try finger painting for a different sensory experience.
There are a number of playdough recipes online that are completely edible! You can use cookie cutters with the dough to make fun shapes and play while addressing sensory needs.
A toy kitchen set is a great activity to learn about and play with various toy foods, without the pressure of the child having to touch real food. Over time, you can introduce real foods and work together to make recipes.
Plain cookies, cakes, and cupcakes are blank canvases. Pick up some different colored icings, sprinkles, and other toppings and have fun decorating!
Feed the Animals
Set up some toy animals and take turns “feeding” them with any foods that you want to incorporate. You can also add dialogue to describe the food and make it fun.
Funny Food Faces
Something as simple as a white paper plate can lead to fun with food! Use any foods you want to create a funny face!
Fruit and Vegetable Stampers
Apples, pears, peppers, and potatoes are not only delicious but also make great art supplies. Shapes can be cut into these foods, dipped in paint, and used as stampers!
Sensory Rice Box
Fill the bottom of a flat tray or bin with raw rice, shovels, spoons, cups, buckets, or any other toys. Your child will have fun digging, pouring, and playing while getting a great sensory experience!
These are just a few ideas for how you can introduce sensory play with food with your picky eater. If your child is not ready to engage with food using their fingers, try incorporating fun tools, like stirring spoons, whisks, or toothpicks! You can also introduce foods in other ways, like scavenger hunts at the grocery store or engage in pretend play with food-related toys.
Do you have concerns about your child? Do they have a limited food repertoire or are they demonstrating sensory aversions, such as sensitivities to specific textures? We can help. A speech language pathologist can complete a feeding evaluation and help you develop a treatment plan to address your child’s specific needs. Contact us for more information.