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who said you shouldn’t play with your food?!

6 minutes

Not sure how to approach weaning? Don’t worry, we’ve teamed up with some of the experts to help guide you along the way and the best thing of all – it’s fun!!

One of the many challenges parents face as their child moves from being a new born to a toddler is the weaning stage and the change from liquids to solids. This is another milestone in your baby’s development and comes with many questions like what foods are right for them and when are they able to cope with solids being just an example. This can seem like a stressful time and research conducted by Waterwipes showed that over a third (34%) of parents feels stressed or anxious.

However, we all know as adults that taking the stress out of most situations is made so much easier when we are having fun, so

Waterwipes teamed up with Child Psychologist Dr Gillian Harris to share the benefits of food playing during the first year. Because almost half of parents (40%) have never engaged their baby with food play at home, Waterwipes also enlisted the support of Sarah Schenker to create Sensory Food Play games to help parents introduce new foods and have fun.

To guide mums and dads through the weaning phase, WaterWipes has teamed up with child psychologist and food acceptance expert, Dr Gillian Harris, to show how sensory food play in the first year of life can help babies gain confidence in trying new foods and benefit children later in life.

Dr Gillian Harris explains “Messy food play has a huge role in reducing food fussiness, both in infancy and later in childhood.

“Babies are highly sensitive to stimuli around them, they react to taste, smell, touch and sound. Surprisingly, sensitivity to touch has the biggest impact in the acceptance of new foods. Just like some children do not like the sensation of sand or having their hair washed, foods with new slimy or stringy textures can feel very uncomfortable at first, and result in a baby refusing contact.

“However, a reaction becomes less extreme the more it is experienced. This is known as desensitizing, and where sensory food play can help.”

It appears fear of mess and soft furnishings are the main barriers to parents encouraging food play, with parents preferring to move it to an alternative venue such as a playgroup (36%) or someone else’s house (16%).

However Sensory Food Play doesn’t need to be messy, it can be simple and controlled whilst also being a fun way to interact and bond. To inspire new ways for parents to introduce Sensory Food Play to their little ones, WaterWipes has enlisted the help of food play expert Sarah Schenker who has devised a few simple food play games to try out at home.

SENSORY FOOD PLAY GAMES FROM SARAH SCHENKER

Hidden Treasures

Hide small pieces of chopped fruit and vegetables (such as blueberries, chopped melon, soft prunes and cucumber sticks) in a wide tray of rice krispies. Encourage your baby to find them with their hands.

Rainbow Painting

Print out an image of a rainbow (or a picture of anything else you like – it just needs to be multi coloured). Then place different coloured foods in front of your baby, such as grapes, berries and tinned sweetcorn, and if you have the time, also chop a few colourful vegetables such as carrots or beetroot. Ask your baby to match and then place each food colour on the colour of the rainbow.

Texture Crush

Lay out foods with different textures, such as breadsticks, plain crackers, rice cakes, cooked porridge, hummus, soft banana and avocado. Then help your baby snap or crush with their hands.

Shape and Colour Matching

Dip different shaped fruit and vegetables into edible paint and make prints on to a sheet of white paper. To create different shapes, use star fruits, orange segments, halved apples, halved pears and kiwis.

Teddy’s Tea Party

Select five small shaped foods (such as raisins, peas, pasta shapes, rice krispies and dried apricots) and mix together in a bowl. Lay out three to four plates for baby, mum, teddy and doll etc. Then encourage your baby to share out the food. This will be a good activity to help children develop pincer grip.

WaterWipes UK Marketing Manager, Emer Dunne commented “Weaning can be a confusing time and every baby is individual, reacting to new foods and sensations in different ways.

“There is no one way of going about it, but Sensory Food Play can be great fun without necessarily being messy. Babies benefit from being able to touch, lick and squash their foods, all taught from their best teacher – their parent.

“It’s also perfect for bonding, whilst they discover the exciting sensations food has to offer. See what works for you and your baby, keep it simple, don’t worry too much about the mess and just give everything a good wipe at the end! WaterWipes are an ideal, safe option when cleaning up sticky hands and faces as they contain 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract.

ADDITIONAL WEANING TIPS FROM DR GILLIAN HARRIS

In addition to the sensory food play games, Dr Gillian Harris has provided five top weaning tips to encourage your baby to try new foods:

  • Provide as many different food tastes as possible.

  • The larger the range of food provided early on, the more foods will be accepted later.

  • Try to cook food at home so baby gets used to the smell of the food you are feeding them.

  • Babies react sensitively to smell as well as to taste and texture.

  • Let them hold a soft piece of food during and outside mealtimes.

  • Baby will get used to the feeling and look of food, reducing their sensitivity.

  • Add a range of different food textures to the menu.

  • Lumpy solids, or rough mashed food, will help reduce sensitivity and increase willingness to try more textured foods.

  • Let your baby get messy! Then wipe at the end.

  • Babies who are allowed to get messy during and outside mealtimes are more likely to try new foods. So don’t hold back, just make sure to have WaterWipes to hand!

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