How To Help Picky Eaters By Using Sensory Play

by Kristy on October 9, 2012


How To Help Picky Eaters By Using Sensory Play

Picky eaters. They are quite common and rampant in the toddler community. My son is a picky eater, but thankfully he has come a LONG way. I truly think it is because of the sensory play he has taken part in.

There may be an underlying reason why your child is a picky eater and in my son’s case, it had a lot to do with how he was repulsed by food with certain textures. It could be how the food looked, how it felt in his hand, in his mouth, how it smelled, etc…all senses. He would get to the point to where he would reject all new food immediately without even touching it. He would only eat food that he was comfortable with, which means that he would often eat the same food over and over again. Although he takes a daily vitamin, I knew that his eating habits needed to change for him to get adequate nutrition from the various food groups.

How does sensory play help picky eaters?

It encourages them to try new foods at their own pace and comfort level. As the parent, you encourage them to try it by trying it yourself in front of them. But a step that I think is most important is to simply…

Let them play with their food!

Yes, there will be messes. However, ultimately it should be worth it because your kiddo will be exploring the new food through touch, smell, sight…and the overall goal, taste.

Think of ways outside the box to explore food, maybe make it look more appealing to your child.

For example, my son was always irked by the texture of pasta. You know the majority of kids who adore mac and cheese? Yeah, he was not one of them. He has always loved cheese…pasta, not so much.

So when I saw an idea on Pinterest of how to dye pasta, a light bulb went off in my head and I knew I just had to try it with my little man.

Then, voila! Pasta Rainbow. :)

Rainbow Pasta Instructions:

-Any pasta you have on hand (I had fettuccine pasta)

-Olive oil (just a little bit added into your pasta after its cooked will help keep it from sticking together)

-Food coloring/gel

-cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to box directions. After I cooked the pasta I then evenly distributed the pasta between 4 different bowls (you can do more or less colors, depending on what you have on hand). Then put a few drops of each color in the designated bowls. Then stir pasta around in their individual bowls until they have an even disbursement of color, add more food coloring if needed to obtain desired color.

Then assemble your rainbow on a plate.

*Reserve the rest of your dyed pasta in a baggie and save in the fridge for another fun sensory activity that I will post about tomorrow!

Then let your child be awestruck that they get to actually “eat a rainbow”. :)

rainbow pasta

pasta rainbow2

This is the face that he makes when he’s not sure if he likes what he is touching. The “eww” face. :)

rainbow pasta2

Once he realized it wasn’t all that bad he went to town playing with the pasta and organizing the colors. I encouraged him to eat the cheese on the plate and he did.

pasta rainbow sensory play

He started getting really comfortable holding the pasta at this point and he was watching me eat it and be silly. I asked him what color of the rainbow he wanted to eat.

Then he grabbed a green piece of pasta. Usually if you let him choose between something, if there is something green, he usually goes for the green. I’m assuming that green is his favorite color. :)

rainbow pasta sensory play2

Success! He chomped down several green pieces of pasta and didn’t gag or get grossed out like he normally would. This was a huge success for him since he completely avoided pasta before due to the texture.

Keep in mind that you may need to do this sensory play activity more than once to get them used to it. Then hopefully from being exposed frequently to the item they previously disliked, they might grow to actually like it. It’s worth a shot! :)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim October 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm

How cute. Great idea.


Pinkoddy October 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I really like this idea – mainly as my son only eats what he’s not meant to – so if he thinks he isn’t meant to eat it he might lol.

Thanks for sharing. Visiting via RainyDayMum.


kristina starnes November 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

Just discovered from “Your Kids Table” on facebook from my Love that you posted this idea, I will be sure to share! Love that you added a play by play too! I just followed some of your boards. Did you have one where you keep all sensory play activities? I do a lot of sensory play with my feeding therapy kiddos and always love new ideas or ones that seem to be preferred over others! Thanks, Kristina


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