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25 Sensory Play Ideas to Help with Picky Eating

This week's blog completes a 3-part series on sensory issues and feeding. Part 1 explained sensory issues and how and why they impact feeding. Part 2 provided tips to help reduce sensory overload during mealtimes.

Here are some fun, play-based sensory activities to help your child become more comfortable with new foods. Remember that kids learn about new foods through repeated exposure, food play, and sensory exploration. It's important not to pressure your child to eat/try the foods during sensory play...just model your own enjoyment of the foods and have fun learning about new foods through sight, smell, touch, and sound. The tasting part will come with time, practice, and patience.

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Mealtime Mess vs. Manners

“I hate the mess at meals.”

“I have a real problem with messiness.”

“Her grandparents won’t allow it.”

“My husband can’t stand the mess.”

“Mess teaches bad manners.”

These are common responses from parents when I tell them that I want them to let their baby (or toddler) get good and messy during mealtimes. You know…squish banana between their little fingers, rub tomato sauce through their hair, poke/prod and roll peas, watch mashed potatoes go splat and giggle as carrots bounce off the kitchen floor.

Simply put…mess is best. Children learn to eat and accept new foods if they are provided with opportunities to get messy. Eating is an experience that engages all of our 5 senses: touch, smell, tastes, sight, and sound. Kids that are encouraged to explore food and get messy tend to be less picky and more likely to eat a variety of foods and textures. Messy mealtimes foster independence by...

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Seriously? Play with your food? Yes! Absolutely! Play with your food!

As a child, my parents used to tell me NOT to play with my food…well, times have changed.  

Playing with food is good for kids…especially kids with sensory issues and those that are picky eaters. Kids learn about foods and move toward food acceptance by exploring foods with all of their senses. Eating is a very sensory experience and we take in information from all of our senses during mealtimes. Kids learn through play. We use play-based learning to teach kids their numbers, colours, and letters; however, when it comes to food, we tend to be more serious with messages like, “Don’t play with your food.”

Food play offers an opportunity for kids to explore and learn about foods, without any pressure to “eat” or “try” the foods.  Children learn through looking, touching, smelling, and squishing. Over time they become more comfortable interacting with the foods and may eventually start eating them when they are ready.

As...

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