Picky eating can cause a lot of stress for both you and your picky eater. Food should be fun and create an enjoyable experience however when picky eating is at play this is difficult to create. Food play and sensory activities around food can positively associate food for your little ones and help them become more adventurous and less picky at the table.
This fall consider adding a few sensory food play activities to your weekly schedule to help both relieve stress, reduce pressure and increase positive food association with your little ones.
Need some ideas? Here are a few to get you started using the foods that are available this time of year.
Spaghetti squash sensory play.
Have you ever cooked a spaghetti squash? It’s magical the way, after you bake it, it can be shredded into what looks and feels like wet spaghetti noodles. Bake an entire squash and put the “noodles” into a deep baking dish or tray and let your little ones squish and pile the wet, mushy, strands.
Add small tools, scoops, or utensils to keep their interest and work on motor skills. This sensory experience is sure to help your little ones fine motor skills develop while also expanding their sensory system to make certain foods more appealing to them.
What about playing a round of pumpkin peek-a-boo?
After you open up a pumpkin and scoop out all the pulp it’s a great peek-a-boo box where you can put any foods or toys inside and have your little ones stick their hands in without looking and experience different textures and consistencies.
Some of my favorites to have them feel for are dried beans, cooked noodles, mashed avocado or diced pickles. You can have them guess what food it is or just describe what it feels like.
Have a baby at home? Just watch as their face lights up with intrigue, make sure to encourage them along the way. Have an older one at home? Take it one step further by naming the food inside the pumpkin something fall or spooky themed like spider legs, eyeballs or dried bones. Or, even better let them fill the pumpkin with a surprise for you to discover!
These sensory play ideas may seem silly or like they’re not doing much but I can guarantee you that there are connections being made right now that will help them prevent or reverse picky eating in the future.
Food should be fun and the more fun they have around food the more they will be willing to eat those foods or foods with similar textures. Little ones are constantly using their senses to help their brain decide what is safe and worth tasting. Expose those senses to different textures, consistencies, flavors, smells, and even looks and they will be much more adventurous when it comes to food.
Just remember to set the environment up for success, put down a wipeable table cloth, keep a towel close by or strategically time these activities before bath time - or better yet DURING bath time to keep your stress at an all time low because these activities will get messy. But messy is where the learning truly happens!