As kids, we were always taught “Don’t play with your food!”. But in reality, parents should encourage their young ones to play with their food starting at an early age. There are several benefits when playing with food, especially for our kids who are picky eaters or anxious to try new foods. Below are just a few of those benefits:
1. Addresses sensory difficulties – If your child is aversive to certain food textures, gags on food, or only eats specific foods then playing in food and manipulating the food with their hands can actually help to desensitize your child to different foods. Hopefully, by playing with their food, it helps to support and encourage them to try new or non-preferred foods.
2. Makes feeding fun and a positive experience – Trying new foods can be stressful, especially for kids with sensory processing difficulties, anxiety, or food aversions. So, by introducing foods through play, you are removing the pressure of actually consuming the food. You want feeding to be a positive experience for your children so by making it fun by playing, your child will be more willing to eventually try new foods when they’re ready! Click here for our “Feeding Therapy Art Collection” where your kids can use different foods to create various animals and objects! It’s fun for the whole family!
3. Improves self-feeding skills – one of the first steps to independent self-feeding in children is finger feeding! Finger feeding begins to happen around 7-8 months of age so start allowing your child to play in their food from an early age! Playing with their food and learning to pick it up helps to form their hand-to-mouth connection and pincer grasp that helps facilitate finger feeding in kids. This then leads to utensil use later on!
Feeding doesn’t have to be a stressful routine for the family! At a young age allow your child to get messy and play in their food. As parents, you will reap the benefits!
If your child is having difficulty with self-feeding, is a picky eater, and/or has aversions to food textures, smells, or tastes, contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.