Food Play and Patterns

July 25, 2021

Playing with food can be a great learning opportunity! No really, hear me out! If you’re like many parents you grew up hearing you shouldn’t play with your food – just eat what you’re served and clear the table. Playing with food can be a valuable learning activity for kids both for sensory exploration but also for problem solving and creative thinking.

Why Patterns Are Helpful

Patterns are helpful for children (and adults) to strengthen neural or brain pathways. They allow us to build reasoning and logic skills. The more patterns we are able to practice the better we are able to solve new problems, pattern work flexes our creative problem solving skills. Some patterns are in the routines of our day – putting the cereal in the bowl then pouring milk, then eating with a spoon; putting our socks on and then shoes; etc. We can use meal times to incorporate patterns as well.

How to Use Food to Build Learning Patterns

When your kid sits at the table, their first inclination could be to play with their food. Let’s lean into that! Encourage them to to create a pattern or fun shapes with their food. Or you could arrange some of the foods you’ve cut in a pattern and have your kiddo decide what should come next, like these avocado pieces below. One of our favorites was to count out berries and match them to the written numbers on the card – I love these activities because you’re able to see the numerical image plus the volume difference. When you set up some pattern options for your kids focus on describing differences and similarities so you’re also able to support their vocabulary acquisition. Be sure to guide them through by having them describe what they see instead of you completing the pattern for them – if they get it wrong, have them explain why they chose what they did then you can show them another way of looking at it.

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