4.11 Sensory Play

Food for Sensory Play

Early years educators have been debating the use of food in sensory play for many years. Using food such as rice, lentils, beans, and pasta has been commonplace in early years settings to provide a variety of sensory experiences for young children, particularly toddlers and preschoolers. These opportunities introduce children to different types of foods and textures, supporting their acceptance of a variety of foods.

The use of food for sensory play is different from providing children with opportunities to explore the food they are eating. Infants and toddlers love finger foods to support their autonomous exploration of new foods. Children will often explore food textures, smells, colours, and tastes while eating snacks and lunches. Slowing down meal times allows children the time they need to become familiar with food and begin to enjoy eating a variety of foods.

Sensory play with food tends to be part of the curriculum and offers children play opportunities such as having rice or lentils in a sensory table with containers or toys for play. This is a controversial practice as many families are facing food insecurities. Discussions around the ethical use of food for sensory play can be observed in the following link.


Read and reflect upon the following discussions regarding the use of food for sensory play to help determine your values around the use of food for sensory play.


Reflective Questions


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Holistic Care and Wellness in Early Years Settings Copyright © 2023 by Barbara Jackson and Sheryl Third is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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