Sensory Activity With Fruits for Picky Eaters
Updated: May 26, 2018
The following activity is appropriate for children of all ages (starting with toddlers). Always provide the right amount of assistance*
Working as a pediatric occupational therapist has made me realize how difficult a child's relationship with food can be. I've encountered numerous picky eaters and many overwhelmed who struggle to introduce new foods into their children's diet. Some of these children have a diagnosis of Autism, ADHD and/or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). However, there are many picky eaters without a diagnosis that also refuse to accept different foods in their meals.
We all know that nutrition is important for a child's development. It plays a crucial role in a child's life. A nutritious diet will not only help develop healthier children but allows them to be more available for learning experiences. This activity was designed to help children interact with food in a playful manner without feeling the pressure of eating something they might not feel comfortable with.
According to pediatric psychologist Dr. Kay A. Toomey, who developed the SOS Approach to Feeding, a child must be able to interact with food, tolerate its smell, touch, and taste before being able to chew and swallow the food. Although this sensory activity is not a representation of the SOS approach, it was inspired by the idea of increasing a child's comfort level by exploring and learning about the different sensory aspects of food.
If your child is a problem feeder versus a picky eater (with a restricted range of foods around less than 20) as stated by Dr. Kay A. Toomey, I would considering getting a feeding evaluation from a health professional that is trained on the SOS Approach to Feeding as there are many factors that can play a role in the development of feeding difficulties, not just sensory issues. Nevertheless, any child can benefit from being allowed to create new memories and participate in fun experiences with healthy foods.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
For this specific project as shown in the picture I used 2 lemons and 1 apple.
You can use any fruit that you have at home!
2. Washable paint
Use your child's favorite colors, ask them to pick!
I used blank sheets of paper.
1. Prepare the materials. 2. Dip the fruits inside the paint. 4. MAKE FRUIT STAMPS!
If the child is able and willing to do it, have him or her touch the fruits, smell them and taste them before dipping them into the paint. Never try to force a child into doing anything that they don't want to as the purpose of this activity is for them to feel comfortable interacting with these materials. If for any reason your child is not even able to touch the food, do not get discouraged. You can grade the activity down and have them interact with the fruits using a tool (e.g. paint brush) or simple show him or her you are having a great time doing it yourself.
Talk about different fruits and ask them what’s their favorite? Read a story book about fruits! Make it enjoyable for them :) Remember to let children be in control and leave it up to them to make the decisions of what they want to do with the fruits. This activity is about playing with the food and having fun with it!
* It is important to determine activities are appropriate for your child. Even though a child may be considered to be a toddler because of their age, this does not necessarily means they have developed all of the skills needed for a task of that level. If your child has some delays, it becomes more important to figure-out what would be a "just-right challenge". If the activity is too challenging, they might get frustrated and lose confidence in the things they can do. Fostering self-esteem should always be at the base of our intentions. On the other hand, if the activity is too easy they might get bored and start acting up.