It may not be the first thing you think of, but food is an amazing resource to use in sensory play with your baby or toddler. It serves three main purposes:
Firstly, babies like to put things into their mouth! It is how they explore and understand the world. When they are playing with food that you have selected and prepared, you can be assured that there is no risk of them consuming toxic or inappropriate materials. Do ensure that you monitor your child at all times during these activities though.
Secondly, it is an incredibly rich sensory activity that activates their sense of touch, smell, sight, taste and sometimes even hearing.
Thirdly, exploring food in a relaxed and fun environment is a fabulous activity in preparation for, or alongside, weaning. If you are considering weaning, the current advice is that your baby is over 6 months old and can hold themselves and their head up adequately. If you were doing these activities with a 6 month old, you might even find your baby actually begins the weaning process themselves through play.
While almost any food items will provide a fun and interesting play experience for your little one, here are 5 ideas for food to try which you are already likely to have at home. What could be better than dinner and play time co-existing!
Cooked spaghetti is absolutely brilliant when you are a baby or toddler. It is soft, squidgy, it smells earthy and to top it off, the strands look like worms!
Why not fill a mini paddling pool with cooked spaghetti and let your little one go wild. If the room is warm enough, strip them down to their nappy so they can have a fully immersive spaghetti experience. If you don't want to go that far, a little on their high chair tray is also great!
2) Citrus fruits
Lemons, limes and oranges are a sensory treat. Cut a variety up and place them on a plate or in a simple Tupperware box with water and anything else you think will add to the aroma. The smell of these delicious fruits diffuses into the water and adds to the sensory experience.
Watch your baby’s face as they experiment and explore the fruit on offer - you may want to have a camera handy as they discover the lemon!
3) Fruit and Vegetables
You don’t necessarily have to get food prepared for children to eat, as you can see from these pictures. Giving your little one fruit and vegetables - whole and uncooked - simply to play with like toys, is a fantastic and enriching activity.
It can be done at any age, but it is especially great to do when they are nearly ready to wean but not quite there yet! This idea gives your little one a chance to physically explore the food – to experience each object's unique shape, texture and smell. Knowing what foods look like before they end up on the plate is also a fantastic way to develop a healthy relationship with food.
4) Leafy Greens
‘Eat your greens’ is a common cry of mothers that has been heard for generations, but if we allow our children to simply discover, explore and play with their greens without putting pressure on them to eat them, then these elusive greens will be common place to them and nothing strange or foreign.
You can literally use anything green but a tub full of herbs, like those shown in the picture, is a great option. Look for a variety of fresh herbs, but don’t introduce too many new smells at one time as it may be a little too much for your baby to take in.
We can think of very few activities more exciting for a baby than diving into a pool full of jelly! Its slimy, cold and slippery feel is unique and will feel very new to babies who are used to being wrapped up in cotton soft baby grows. This contrast is what makes this experience so powerful. The more experiences we allow our children to explore, the more they learn about the world.
If your little one (or you!) is not quite ready for a whole pool full of jelly, a little bit on a plate or tray to investigate is great too.
Explore the Senses with Tots Play
The opportunity to explore different food stuffs is just one of the activities you can enjoy at a Tots Play class, along with a wide range of sensory experiences as part of our multi-activity programme. If you are just getting started with discovering sensory play, or would like some new ideas, then coming to classes can be a great way to try out lots of play experiences and see what you might like to have a go at when you return home.
If you like the idea of food play for your little one, but not the potential mess that can go with it, leaving that mess at class might also be part of the appeal!
Of course there are lots of other reasons to come and join us with music, yoga, massage, sign language, bubble time and more included in our classes, plus a warm welcome and the opportunity to make new friends. It is all there waiting for you, there's no better time to come and experience the Tots Play fun, and start feeding those senses for yourself.
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