Why it's actually a good thing if your child plays with their food, according to experts

It’s likely that at some point in your life you were told off for playing with your food. You might have even reprimanded your own child for doing just that once or twice.

And if you have, you wouldn’t be alone as according to new research by baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen, a third of parents still consider playing with food to be bad behaviour.

But it turns out it could actually be a very good thing for your child, especially if you are keen for them to try new foods and have more fun at mealtimes.

Studies show that little ones who engage and have fun with food using all their senses, in and outside of mealtimes, are much more willing to try those foods, and over time, learn to love them.

© Getty Images Three little children holding slices of fruit and vegetables over their eyes.

The findings by Ella’s Kitchen showed how 41 per cent of parents thought getting their children to try or eat certain foods was more stressful than a trip to the dentist, being stuck in traffic or even moving house.

But it no longer has to be this way.

To provide inspiration and bring the fun into food and mealtimes, Ella’s Kitchen is offering parents the chance to get their hands on an expert-designed tasty, touchy, squishy Sensory Play Pack, created to help little ones from six months to three years fall in love with good food through fun, multi-sensorial games.

Created in partnership with childhood eating behaviour expert Dr Helen Coulthard from De Montfort University and Ella’s Kitchen’s expert nutritionist Claire Baseley, the packs are bursting full of sensory elements, designed to help the three in four parents that admit they still struggle to get their little one to try new foods at mealtimes.

Each Sensory Play Pack includes touchy, feely, textured stickers, a sensory play activity booklet packed with recipe and game ideas, fruit and veg rainbow snap cards, a sensory play wall chart, The Purple One pouch, and some little Ella’s Kitchen socks to play a great herby smelly socks game with.

Claire Baseley, Ella’s Kitchen Nutritionist says: “Parents often find it hard to get their children to eat new foods, with vegetables often topping the list of most challenging foods to introduce – but did you know, it can take up to 8-12 experiences of a food before your little one accepts it?

“The first few experiences with a new food might result in a few funny faces, but patient perseverance is key and a fun and enjoyable experience with food now can help build confidence and curiosity as they grow and make them more willing to try new things, including a variety of yummy tastes and textures.

“At Ella’s, we want little ones to fall in love with good food and enjoy their earliest mealtime experiences which is why our Sensory Play Packs are designed with this in mind – to help you let your little one enjoy mealtimes by exploring new foods in fun and exciting ways.”

To get your little one’s Sensory Play Pack, spend £25 on Ella’s online shop and enter the code SENSORY25 at checkout… but be quick, once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Ella’s Kitchen Nutritionist Claire Baseley’s top tips for engaging the senses at mealtimes

Time for texture!

Let little hands feel the different textures of foods as you prepare a scrummy meal, like a bumpy avocado skin. Then explore the squishy, creeeamy, silky smoooth texture inside too!

No foodie faves!

Try to treat all foods as equal at mealtimes or during sensory play and avoid singling out any disliked foods, like veg, as being super yummy, healthy or fun. Little ones are clever and will get suspicious!

Finger food fun!

Encourage your little one to explore their finger foods using the senses and ask them lots of questions… Is it yummy? Squidgy? Hard? Soft? Bumpy?

Offer a variety!

Allow your little one to touch, squeeze, sniff + play, without pressuring them to eat, especially if it’s a disliked food. If they don’t want to try it, encourage them to pop it on a side plate… they’ve still engaged with it without being told to eat it.

Looks yummy!

Keep going with the visual adventure at mealtimes! Even if little ones are eating pureed or mashed food, they can still explore whole fruits and veggies with all their senses to get familiar with the colours and shapes. Show your little one the ingredients you’re using when prepping a meal and talk about the different colours + shapes. This way, they can also see the journey to their bowl or high chair!

Do you have a parenting story to share? We want to hear all about it. Email us at yourmirror@mirror.co.uk

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