As a mom, and a speech therapist who enjoys working with feeding kiddos, my poor son has had to endure multiple sensory feeding experiments that I just had to try. Most of them have been a success (I will list a few) but my FAVORITE was the edible cheerio sand.
Stick a cup of cheerios in a blender and… BAM quick snack and sensory feeding task all in one.
I have attended multiple continuing education courses in the area of feeding/swallowing and recently completed a course that went over the hierarchy steps of eating. There are WAY too many to go over so for now, we will start with a few basic steps: tolerating in visual field, on plate, tolerating on hands, then arms, face, on their head(yes this is totally normal!), and then finally lips to eating. The basic premise is that if we allow our baby/child to seek out these textures, and give their system the opportunity to interpret the input from food from a multi-system approach (visual, tactile, olfactory) then there will be less aversive behaviors. My son made a huge mess, but ultimately loved this activity and the fact that he could eat it.
As a feeding therapist, I am a HUGE advocate for messy eating.
Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, they will need a bath. BUT, it is so fun for them and encourages positive experiences that can help your child enjoy a wide range of foods. So, let them put the pudding in their hair and smear food all over their belly. If there is food on their face, LEAVE it. Don’t worry about scraping it off with a spoon(this can be uncomfortable for the baby and prevents an opportunity for tolerating textures on their face). Embrace messy eating!
Here are some fun activities that can be done to encourage food play:
-mashed potato snowmen with peas for eyes/buttons
-hummus/pudding/whipped cream chalkboard (smear on the table and practice letters, numbers, or writing their name)
-cracker house with peanut butter for glue
-veggie face (use noodles for hair, olives/cherry tomatoes for eyes, etc)
These are just a few, but just like regular play, encourage the child to use their imagination! Food play is a wonderful way to introduce food to our picky eaters and establish positive experiences with new foods/textures.
If you are looking for some non-food-related sensory play ideas take a look here!