Tactile Sensory Play Ideas: Meal Time

Child's handsAs an occupational therapist I do a lot of sensory-based tactile play at my work, because it has many benefits for the development of children of all ages (builds motor, visual, sensory, and cognitive skills).  At home, I try to allow my children opportunities to engage in sensory play to allow them to develop their sensory processing skills and build creative, flexible, and higher-level thinking skills.  This means that my children are often messy, clothes are stained, and my floors are dirty, but it is worth it!

I’ve looked online for “sensory play” ideas, and I found most of the suggestions overwhelming and impractical.  Children need the opportunity to engage in tactile play, but it should occur within their normal routines and environments.  This series of posts is just of photos that try to capture the ways that tactile play can occur with minimal effort.  The biggest effort is just allowing your children to explore and be messy and love it (and taking adorable photos).

Tactile play during meal time:

  • Kids are messy eaters (or at least mine are).  Let them be messy.
  • Kids learn about food by touching, smelling, and tasting.  Enjoying and exploring foods helps to develop health eating habits (and avoid being picky eaters!).
  • Play can happen while you are preparing a meal, while they are eating a meal, or just on it’s own for play time.
  • There is plenty of time to work on table manners as kids get older, let them be kids and enjoy their food.
  • Practical tip- plan a messy meal just before bath time.
  • We have done this in the high chair, on the counter top, on a table, on the floor on cookie sheets, and in the bath tub.

See other posts in this series:

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.