Most children need little encouragement to get messy, especially when it comes to their food, but while your parents might have warned you never to play with your food, from a sensory play perspective, it could be exactly what was needed. Sensory play is a great encounter for children of all ages. As a child grows and reviews the globe around them, their innate curiosity is bound to make a mess.
In the right context, allowing them to get messy with sensory play offers a range of benefits. As well as helping them to learn, it may help children who are fussy or nervous eaters to become more confident with eating a range of food types. Engaging them in some food-based sensory play may be what assists them to enlarge their menu.
Food-formed sensory play is a great way to support a child to build both their fine motor and cognitive skills. Any food – mostly food which is noisy, messy, slimy, or gooey – is a great medium for allowing a child to explore. Below are few ideas to assist you to get started on your food-based sensory adventure.
Do you recall playing with cornflour gloop in your primary school science classes? Cornflour has an amazing skill to move between solid and almost liquid, depending on how it is handled. While this isn’t really one for full-on edible play – cornflour isn’t the tastiest on its own – playing with it can be a great encounter for kids of all ages.
All you require to do is put the single cup of cornflour in the bowl with half the cup of water. Allow your toddler blend it with their hands or spoon – as the mix come together it turns hard when it is combined, returning to the more liquid shape when it is left to sink. Adding dots of food colouring brings in an extra level of excitement, making for a more visual encounter.
Using a handful of dried ingredients, such as small cookies, cereal, sultanas and/or crackers, can make a child more confident with their food. They could sort the elements into different pots, arrange them into their different varieties, count the numbers of each, or hear what sound crispy food makes when it is crushed with a rolling pin.
This is a fun task for adults and children alike, as long as you trust the person feeding you! Help to make the ideas of trying new foods at meal time more enjoyable, with a round of blind tasting for your child. Simply organise a few foods into bowls and ask your child to wear a blindfold ready for the guessing game.
If they feel ok to do this, then when you are both ready, let them examine the food on their plate with their fingers, to lean in and smell it, to hear how it might sound when the tub is shaken. This engages them to enlist various senses as well as their imagination. Finally, encourage them to taste the food item and tell you what they believe the food is. If a child is not confident to blind taste food, do not force the matter – they can watch you or, or other kids, take part.
Hopefully these ideas have given you a starting point for some food-based sensory play tasks; we’re always looking for new and fun ways that Garden Play can help children to learn through play. Have fun trying!