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Rainbow coloured spaghetti in a white colander

Fun with food – edible sensory play for kids

Sensory play is any activity or playtime that is specifically designed to stimulate a child's sense of touch, smell, sight, taste, or hearing. The point of sensory play is to foster your little one's ability to complete more complex learning tasks. This type of stimulation through play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social interaction.

But sensory games don't have to be extravagant or complicated to provide in-depth entertainment and education for your child. There are actually some really simple and practical ways to open up the sensory world to your child using edible items. The bonus of edible sensory play is if exploration leads to tasting, it's perfectly safe.

Here are some activities for kids that are great for sensory play, many of which come right out of your pantry or fridge:

Waffle checkers

Yup, you guessed! It combines two fun activities into one for a feast of the senses and a brain-teasing treat. All it takes is a waffle and your checker's board and some edible treats such as blueberries, raisins, or strawberries.

This game is particularly good for kids who are learning to count, and for encouraging patience and healthy competition along with sensory stimulation. And don't worry, the rules are not as complex as traditional checkers, so it's perfect for small children. One of the great features of this particular game is that there is very little clean up because most of what you use gets eaten by the end.

Two waffles in a waffle maker
Colourful jelly cubes on a plate

Jelly

It may sound simple, but a humble packet of jelly is a sensory gold mine for children of all ages. Jelly has the unmistakable wibble-wobble texture which makes it such a fun experience for children and adults alike.

Use different flavours to help your kids explore various smells, tastes and colours and encourage them to identify or guess the colours and flavours. You can also shape your jelly in chocolate moulds or ice trays. Or perhaps place different sized toys or pieces of fruit in it for your little ones to find with their hands. 

Another alternative is to set different colour jelly in multiple layers to make a bright jelly landscape your children will love to explore. There are so many ways that you can use jelly as a sensory experience for your kids, and it's always a favourite for early childhood exploration.

A landscape of edible wonders

Kids can often play for hours in an imaginary world of cars, people and animals. So, help them to bring their imagination to life by creating their very own world to play in. Use a wide plastic or cardboard tray as the base for your terrain, let your child fill it up with different textured foods and encourage your little one to build a world for their miniature figurines to live in.

Broccoli, for example, is a great edible stand-in for trees, and you can create a whole variety of terrains and topographies using foodstuff. Opt for things such as coloured coconut, puffed cereal, edible sand or cooked brown rice for different textured groundcover. And blue jelly looks a lot like a stream or river along with nuts and seeds which make pretty good pebbles. Your kids will no doubt love this activity which encourages creative play, stimulates their fine motor skills and their senses.

Childs hands in a bowl of marine figures
A pizza made into a face

Pizza faces

Use making lunch or dinner as an opportunity for your kids to engage in sensory play. Also, the family can spend time together while you prepare your meal. It's a simple process of making pizza, from shaping the dough, topping it with tomato sauce and cheese, and choosing your toppings to the final product of eating your very own creations together.

This recipe uses freshly made dough but, if it’s easier, you can buy ready-made bases or ready-made dough from the supermarket. The best thing about individual pizzas is that there are no fights over toppings and fussy little eaters are able to make something that they're sure to gobble down.

There is no need to fret over oily stains and smears of tomato paste – when you dash off to buy the ingredients for your pizzas, ensure that you stock up on laundry detergent that has effective stain removal properties. Get ready to get deliciously creative!

What you will need:

200 g of plain flour
1 cup (250 ml) of warm water
1 tsp. (5 ml) of sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) of dried yeast
Tomato puree or pizza sauce
A sprinkling of oregano
Grated cheese
Different toppings to make your pizza face features – such as sliced peppers, olives, ham, pineapple, mushrooms and sweet corn.

What to do:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the yeast, water and sugar together and leave in a warm place for 8 minutes.
3. Mix in the flour and knead into a firm dough.
4. Roll out into a circle and bake for 7 minutes.
5. Spread your tomato paste/sauce onto the cooked base and sprinkle with cheese.
6. Be as creative as you like with your toppings, to make a funny food face.
7. Pop back into the oven for another 7-10 minutes.
8. Leave to cool.
9. Then eat with your hands for maximum enjoyment!


Your kids will love being included in the meal preparation, and the hands-on part of making a pizza is a great sensory activity for your little ones. In the end, the sense of achievement for both you and the kids is worth every bit of effort.

Very often, sensory play is messy play but don't sweat it because dirt is good and stains mean experience. OMO washing tips and a great range of laundry detergents give you the freedom to learn from the messy moments without having to worry too much about stains.