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5 Food-based sensory play ideas

Most kids love to get messy and while your mother may have told you not to play with your food, for a picky eater, playing with food might be just what the doctor ordered.

Sensory play is a great experience for kids of all ages. As your child grows and explores the world around them, some of that natural curiosity is bound to make a mess. What does the cup of water do when it gets turned upside down? How does avocado look when it’s painted on the walls? Does mummy’s phone float in the toilet?

While some sensory experiences might not be experiments you want your kids to conduct, letting them get messy with sensory play is a must. If your child is a picky eater, engaging them in some food-based sensory play might just be what helps them expand their menu as well.

How to get started with sensory play >>

Food-based sensory play is a great way to help your child build both their cognitive and fine motor skills. Any food — especially food that is gooey, slimy, noisy or messy — is a great medium for letting your child explore. Better still, you don’t need to worry about what they put in their mouth! Below are five ideas to help get you started on your food-based sensory adventure.


Cracker barrel

Playing with food isn’t a bad thing, especially if you have a picky eater. Using a handful of dry ingredients such as cereal, crackers, sultanas or small cookies such as Tiny Teddies, encourage your child to play with their food. They can sort the items into different containers or an icecube tray, put them in a dump truck, or see what sound crunchy food makes when it is rolled over with a rolling pin. If your child is a great eater this is still a fun game to play, even if most of it ends up in their belly.


Cornflour gloop

Do you remember playing with cornflour gloop in your primary school science classes? Cornflour has an amazing ability to be both liquid and solid, depending on how it’s handled. While it’s not going to be tasty, playing with cornflour is a great experience for children of all ages.

All you need to do is put one cup of cornflour in a bowl with half a cup of water. Let your toddler mix it with a spoon or their hands — as the mixture comes together it becomes hard when it is mixed, reverting to a more liquid state when it is left to settle. Add drops of food colouring to create a more visual experience as well.


Blind tasting

Make snack time fun with a blind tasting for your toddler.

Simply organise a few foods into a bowl and ask your toddler if they want to close their eyes or wear a blindfold to play a guessing game. If not, don’t pressure them into it — you can wear the blindfold instead.

Once you are both ready, let them explore the food on their tray with their fingers. Encourage them to taste it, telling you what they can taste and what they think the food is. Again, if your child isn’t happy to blind taste food, don’t force the issue — you can play the game yourself instead and your toddler can participate by watching the fun. They might be happy to pick up the food and taste it as you play.


Jelly discovery bowl

Jelly is heaps of fun. It’s squidgy and slimy and turns into mush when you smoosh your hands into it. It’s also sweet — a big bonus for most kids.

You can encourage your toddler to play with jelly by creating a discovery bowl. Simply make up a batch of jelly in a large, clear bowl and either set a few items into it (make sure they are edible or at the very least, non-toxic) or push them into the jelly once it is set. Let your child look into the bowl and tell you what they can see and encourage them to fish out various objects.


Bake off

Remember fighting over the cake batter spoon with your siblings when you were a kid? Baking is heaps of fun for kids and while their creations may be less than perfect, there’s nothing sweeter than eating a cookie made with their very own hands.

Quick and easy sugar cookie recipe >>

From bread to biscuits, kids can be involved in the kitchen from an early age. Let them help you knead bread (to be enjoyed hot out of the oven with lashings of butter, of course) or make up a batch of sugar cookies that they can help mix and cut shapes out of. Let them be as creative and involved as they like and try not to “fix” any mistakes or worry about salmonella poisoning after you catch them licking the spoon.

More play ideas for toddlers

How to encourage creativity in your child
Activities for babies in their second year
Water-based sensory play ideas

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