Happy November, everyone! With Thanksgiving arriving this month, what better time to talk about all things FOOD. It’s the time of year to celebrate the season and holidays by preparing food, eating food, and then preparing even more food! It’s a happy time for some, but being around new foods, sights, and smells may be stressful for others. We’ve compiled a list from some of our past blogs and social media posts with information on feeding challenges as well as fun ideas to engage with food to increase your child’s tolerance of foods. 

Messy Play Is The Way

Does the word “messy” make you think of baby wipes, cleaning up, and maybe make you cringe a bit? We understand how great it can feel to be clean and organized, but did you know that allowing your baby and toddler (and older children) to get messy can benefit their development in many ways? Please read below to learn about ways to incorporate messy play into your daily routines. You can also check out the full version HERE to know what messy play is and why it’s essential for development!

Mealtime Messy Play!

Dampen that instinct to instantly wipe your child’s hands or mouth if they have food all over. Follow these tips to help mealtime be a sensory-rich experience:

  1. While feeding your baby in a highchair, don’t always hold the jar or bowl away from their tray. Put a tiny bit on their tray table to see and feel, smear around their tray, and maybe stick their fingers in their mouth afterward!
  2. Let them try out the spoon! Using a spoon is excellent for both messy play and learning self-feeding skills. Yes, food will get on their face, hands, and your floor, but it is all such a beneficial learning experience for your baby – they’ll learn how to get the spoon to their mouth better and what foods feel like when it’s on their hands. 
  3. Is your toddler refusing most of the food you offered them? Encourage them to engage with their food in another way, like finger painting with condiments or sauces, making designs with their pasta, talking about its texture in their hands – is it crunchy, soft, squish slimy?

*Remember, don’t feel like you have to do these ideas for every meal or meal! Try out some ideas for the last part of your mealtime, or aim for a few times each week.

Other fun foods to use in messy play!

Food is the perfect messy play item because we know that babies and toddlers put everything into their mouths. You can always change up these foods by adding a bit of food coloring to them for bright and fun colors. Try squeezing it, using a finger to poke it or draw in it, crunch it, pinch it, clap with it on your hands, pull it, and more! Try these out for safe and fun play! With these ideas, sit and participate in the activity right alongside your child to model how they interact with their food. 

*These activities should still always be completed under constant adult supervision for safety.

  1. Whipped cream
  2. Pudding
  3. Jello
  4. Oats or dry cereal
  5. Dry or cooked pasta
  6. Marshmallows (large, not mini-size as they can be choking hazards)
  7. Flour or cornmeal
  8. Edible paints or playdoh (Click on the links to learn how to make them!)
  9. Ice or frozen vegetables on a hot, summer day

Feeding Fun with Food Cutters

Did you know that even just cutting your child’s food into different shapes can help them increase their flexibility with tolerating different foods? On the other hand, cutting it into fun shapes can make trying new, or less-preferred, foods more fun!

We found these fun food cutters on Amazon that make cutting your food into different shapes quick and easy. Try building a tower with the squares, counting them, dipping them into various spreads/toppings, or making a smiley face with the pieces!

A New Way To Serve It Up

Use a simple ice cube tray as a fun way to serve snacks or work on interacting with new foods or food combinations!

  • Choose 3 or 4 foods and alternate between the foods in each section of the tray. If it makes sense, combine some of the foods.
  • When trying to expand your child’s diet, don’t focus on only introducing new or hard-to-eat foods – try combining two preferred foods, such as peanut butter + crackers or Nutella + banana.
  • Add an easy-to-eat food every few sections, like a chocolate chip, to keep it fun. Use paper to cover the slots to make each reveal a surprise to see what comes next! “No peeking!”

Lastly, if you feel confused about figuring out if your child is going through a phase of picky eating or becoming a problem, check out our article ‘Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders.’

Schedule a Consultation with Skills 4 Life

Have questions or concerns about your child’s feeding, eating habits, or other developmental milestones? Reach out to the OTs at Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy for a free, 15-minute consultation. You can reach Skills 4 Life at (303) 351-1828 or karina@skills4lifeot.com.


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to children from birth to high school. We help children master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success, & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding, & executive function coaching. We also work with children on the building blocks of writing, social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies, sensory integration, early intervention, & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills to succeed in learning and life. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com. You also can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.

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