Sparking Interest in Food Play: 4 Simple Strategies to Engage Your Child

Sparking Interest in Food Play: 4 Simple Strategies to Engage Your Child

Food play can be a fantastic way to introduce children to new foods, textures, and flavors while making mealtime a fun and interactive experience. However, not all children naturally gravitate towards food play, and some may show little to no interest in exploring food in this way. If your child falls into this category, don't worry! As feeding therapists, we’ve been around the block with children who do not like to engage and are just aversive to new foods, new textures, and new tastes! Here are are several strategies that have worked with us in our sessions, that you can try to spark their interest and encourage participation in food play activities. Let's explore some effective approaches together.

Join them in the fun

One of the most effective ways to encourage your child's participation in food play is by joining them in the fun! Children are more likely to engage in activities when they see their parents or caregivers actively involved and enjoying themselves. When we’re in our sessions, we will always play with them and give them our 100% attention. With a silly smile and many laughs and memories, children are known to be more willing to try new things in a fun and relaxing environment! So sit down with your child during food play sessions, demonstrate enthusiasm, and show them how much fun it can be to explore different foods together. Your active participation can help create a positive and inviting atmosphere that encourages your child to join in and experiment with food.

Combine their interest with food play

Another strategy to ignite your child's interest in food play is by combining their existing interests with food-related activities. Take note of your child's hobbies, favorite characters, or activities they enjoy, and incorporate these elements into food play sessions. For example, if your child loves playing with building blocks, consider creating food sculptures using fruits, vegetables, and other edible items. Some of my kiddos LOVE (absolutely LOVE) alphabets and numbers… and once we just shaped our foods into different letters. We started with cookie cutters, moved towards cutting with a knife (with help of course), and then, we ended it off by biting pieces of foods to make letters! What a fun way of learning about the sensory properties of new foods, without any fuss and no fights! By aligning food play with your child's interests, you can make the experience more engaging and appealing, increasing their willingness to participate.

Start with foods that your child already likes

If your child is hesitant to explore new foods during food play, start by incorporating familiar foods that they already enjoy. Begin with a selection of their favorite fruits, vegetables, or snacks, and gradually introduce new and unfamiliar items over time. By starting with familiar foods, you can help your child feel more comfortable and confident during food play activities, laying the foundation for future exploration and experimentation with a wider range of foods.

Add yummy and colorful additions

Make food play sessions enticing and visually appealing by adding colorful and tasty additions to the mix! Incorporate a variety of vibrant fruits, vegetables, and toppings to create visually stimulating food arrangements and encourage your child to explore different textures and flavors. Consider using fun and playful presentations, such as creating rainbow-themed fruit skewers or arranging fruits and vegetables in creative shapes and patterns. My “must have” toolkit comes with food coloring (not for the children to eat, but so many kids love seeing water change colors or food change colors), dye-free sprinkles, paintbrushes (for children to paint yogurt or dips), and our food play stamps. By making food play visually appealing and appetizing, you can capture your child's interest and encourage them to participate in exploring and tasting new foods.

All in all…

Engaging your child in food play can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both parent and child. By implementing these strategies and creating a positive and inviting environment, you can spark your child's interest in food play and encourage them to explore new foods, textures, and flavors with enthusiasm and curiosity. Remember to be patient and supportive as your child embarks on this food exploration journey, and celebrate their progress and achievements along the way. With patience, creativity, and a sense of fun, you can turn mealtime into a delightful and enriching experience for your child!


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