Sensory Play Starting with Dry Textures - Feeding Littles

Sensory Play Starting with Dry Textures

Do you have a child who hates mixed texture foods like casseroles or soups? Perhaps they don’t like toppings on their sandwich or pizza…sound familiar?

Judy here to discuss some occupational therapy strategies utilizing sensory play that can decrease selective eating. The dislike of mixed textures originates from the sensory system and your child’s level of tolerance for different tactile (touch) inputs.

Interestingly enough, when you let your child play with mixed textures in a safe, no-pressure way (where they don’t have to eat it), you help their comfort level when they’re presented mixed texture foods at mealtime. Tactile tolerance also helps in every day life – it will be easier to put sunscreen on their face, clip their nails, or wash their hair when they can tolerate these types of touch. This is just one type of tactile input – dry items – and we’ll show you in upcoming posts how to transition to wet or even “gooey” textures, which helps them to tolerate multiple types of foods when eaten.

Read all about sensory processing in this post.

How do we do this in a gradual way using dry textures first? See images below for examples of each step.

  1. Start with a simple single texture like rice or other dry grains, dried lentils, dried beans or even sand. Offer a long utensil if your child is hesitant to touch it, and provide a motor activity with a bowl or cup so they have something to scoop into. Never force them to touch it, but encourage them to get their hands in the bin if they’d like to. Play along with them!
  2. Add a new texture like bath toys or other different texture objects. Allow them to use longer utensils first as they get used to mixed textures (they can use hands if ready).
  3. Offer a shorter handle utensil like tongs to slowly get them closer to touching the objects.

Words of advice:

  • Keep this activity short and never force them to touch anything.
  • Place a beach towel or blanket in opposing colors on the floor before setting down the sensory bin for easier clean up.
  • If your child is sensitive to their clothes getting dirty, have clean ones nearby.
  • If they don’t want to touch something, try putting it in a ziplock bag first – that may feel more safe.
  • No matter how you feel about sensory play yourself, keep your emotions positive.
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