Does your toddler turn up their nose when new food items are placed on their plate? Are they reluctant to move beyond their favorite food items? Foods come in so many different textures, colors, shapes and we expect our children to immediately dive right in. BUT, what if we encouraged exploration and play as a way of eating new foods? Here are some ideas to encourage fun exploration while playing with food:
Paint: New puree or yogurt? Allow your toddler to use their fingers as a paintbrush to paint you an edible masterpiece! See if they can color over their tray or draw you a picture. Not only can these pictures be colorful, but they can also be a fun tasty treat!
I Spy: Have fun plastic placemats at home? See if they can find and mark different items on the mat with the food. Use yogurt as a bingo dauber or a carrot as a pointer stick! “I spy Mickey with a carrot in his mouth!”
Landscape: Smash or grind up cheerios or graham crackers to make sand; plant trees of broccoli or lettuce. Take a walk through your new garden with your fingers. Or maybe your toddler’s favorite cars want to go zooming through some new terrain? Toy dinosaurs could be looking for some tasty nibbles of broccoli!
Sort: Add different shapes and colors to their tray; can they help you match the colors, shapes, or sizes? This is a great way to expand categorical knowledge through the exploration of new fruits and veggies!
Scavenger Hunt: Use a clear casserole dish to hide items within the food. Allow your toddler to dig with their hands and find their favorite plastic figurines. If they are messy your toddler could lick them clean or dunk them in a bowl of water to rinse off!
No matter how you play with food, allowing your toddler to experience the new textures, sights, and smells will be a fun and rewarding way to expand the variety of food accepted at the table! So, go and get messy with your toddler and food, just remember to have a wet cloth nearby!