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If you’re like most parents, you want your child to have a healthy and balanced diet. However, if your child is a picky eater, this can be difficult to achieve. Luckily, there are many sensory activities that you can do this summer to help encourage your child to try new foods. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 different activities that you can try!
This activity is such a hit with my boys, and with my clients too! It’s simple- slice a large slab of watermelon and lay flat on a cutting board. Give your kids some fun small cookie cutters (like these) and watch the magic unfold. They just cut watermelon into different shapes using cookie cutters and taste whatever they’d like. Let your child explore the different shapes and textures of the watermelon. You can even add a little bit of yogurt or whipped cream to make it more fun! Remember, even if they don’t try a bite letting them explore and experience the different smells and feels of the watermelon helps us get closer to trying it. Pro Tip: Do this activity right before bath time! Serving with yogurt or whipped cream adds some fat for happier bellies too!
Another easy and fun activity is to make fruit kabobs. Build a platter with fruits from different colors of the rainbow, add some skewers and let your kids assemble. This works well if the individual fruits are similar sizes and about the right size for your kid’s hands. This would be a fantastic activity for the kids to build while the grownups are making dinner, it would make a great side dish for a grill night. Pro Tip: practice patterns and size differences to support critical thinking and curiosity.
This is a Sensory Activity, Science Experiment and delicious treat all in one! Your kid will have practice working with crunchy apples and they’ll love getting to add sweet frosting and sprinkles! You can also use peanut butter on top if you’d prefer.
You will need:
Cut the apples into ¼” slices using a sharp knife or cookie cutters. If you are using cookie cutters, make sure to save the centers that you cut out! Spread frosting, yogurt or cream cheese on top of each apple slice. Add toppings and enjoy!
These are a great way to practice mixing sweets and ‘healthy’ foods. I love to use a variety of fruits and toppings so the kids can really customize their own. While building you can chat with your kids about which flavors and textures would be good with the ice cream. Bonus is to make homemade ice cream so you and your kids can watch how the liquid thickens and then freezes and talk about what happens when liquids get really cold. Can you come up with 4 different colors of fruits to add?
You will need:
Scoop the ice cream into bowls and top with whipped cream and your desired toppings. Serve immediately, or portion into cups and freeze for later! Think about different ways you can incorporate non-preferred textures for your kids. Even if they’re sweets it still counts as practice! Or maybe for your kid combining even sprinkles on ice cream would be a challenge – start there and build.
This is a great activity to get kids thinking about patterns by using their foods. It’s also perfect for summer because it’s not too messy and you can do it inside while the afternoon is super hot. I love this activity for building hand-eye coordination and helping flex our focus muscles. See if your older kids can add items in patterns by following a sample pattern you lay out for them.
You will need:
Cut the string long enough to make a necklace for your child. Tie a large knot (might want to use a large bead to prevent foods falling off) at one end. Instruct your child to thread provided snacks in their desired pattern on the string or yarn. Tie the two ends together and wear as a fun and edible necklace. Pro-Tip: the best items for threading are likely to be very carbohydrate-heavy, serve this with a fun fruit and veggie smoothie to balance it out and add more fun textures.
I love this activity because it includes textures and TEMPERATURES! Temperature exposure and practice is commonly overlooked by families who are working to help their picky eaters.
You will need:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the bananas and cut them in half, then insert popsicle sticks into each banana half. Place the baking sheet with bananas in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or over a double boiler on the stove.
Once the bananas are frozen, dip each one in the melted chocolate then place them back on the parchment paper. Add your fun toppings while the chocolate is still wet. Place them back in the freezer for another 30 minutes or until the chocolate is hardened. Enjoy!
These frozen banana pops are the perfect summer treat for picky eaters! They’re fun to make and even more fun to eat. If your kiddo is particular about sweetness (like super sweet or not super sweet), then be sure to pick your bananas for freezing accordingly. I love that they’re a different way to serve preferred foods and that you can prep them in advance and have lots on hand for future sweets.
Breakfast for dinner is a really fun option that is ripe for memory-making. I love having kids invite one or two toy friends to the table. It’s a great way they can practice table manners, it allows them to feed things to their friends they might not want to eat themselves, and have you ever eaten breakfast for dinner and not felt the joy of a child?! It’s so so fun! Any pancakes will do, as always find some proteins (eggs, yogurt, bacon), fats (bacon, full fat yogurt, butter) and fiber (blueberries, whole wheat pancakes) to include for a really well-balanced meal.
Now I know the idea of turning on the oven during the summer seems crazy, but hear me out. This activity gets kids a little messy, they work with different smells and textures plus they get food at the end!!! I love to set my boys up with some bread, butter, cheese and butter knife on a cutting board – then let them go to town! You can get my go-to recipe in Busy Mom Meal Prep.
Sticky, sweet, crunchy and chewy. What’s not to love? ! There are loads of great recipes and I love to start with a base, then customize based on what I’ve got around the house. Maybe turn this into a weekly activity with the kids, then wrap them and store them to be used throughout the week. If you haven’t made granola bars before, here’s a great starter recipe.
I’m a huge fans of activities I can do with no supplies. It frees up an entire step, and allows me to be flexible and spontaneous. If you’re working to help your kid eat a wider variety of foods, having a solid plan of attack can be really helpful in gaining traction, and foods! When you are at the grocery store or the farmer’s market with your kiddos challenge them to find a variety of foods, and maybe change it up by category! One week you can do colors of the rainbow, one week you do soft foods, one week crunchy foods, etc. Once they identify the foods, you can pick one to purchase and do an activity at home around. You can even do this activity at home! You can have them find colors of the rainbow in the fridge/pantry. Or find all the foods that start with B, or all the foods that are grown under the ground, the list of possibilities goes on and on!
I hop you’ve found this round up of sensory food play activities helpful! I would love to hear which ones you do with your kids so be sure to head on over to instagram and tell me all about it so I can cheer you on!