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Messy Play! Feeding Your Child's Senses

Posted by Tots play on

Messy play

It may not be the first thing you think of, but food is an amazing resource to use in sensory play with your baby or toddler. It serves three main purposes.

Firstly, babies like to put things into their mouth. It is how they explore and understand the world. When they are playing with food that you have selected and prepared, you can be assured that there is no risk of them consuming toxic or inappropriate materials. (Do ensure that you monitor your child at all times during these activities though)

Secondly, it is an incredibly rich sensory activity that activates their sense of touch, smell, sight, taste and sometimes even hearing.

Thirdly, exploring food in a relaxed and fun environment is a fabulous activity in preparation or alongside weaning. If you are considering weaning, the current advice is that your baby is over 6 months old and can hold themselves and their head up adequately. If you were doing these activities with a 6 month old, you might even find your baby actually begins the weaning process themselves through play.

While almost any food items will provide a fun and interesting play experience for your little one, here are 5 ideas for food to try which you are already likely to have at home. What could be better than dinner and play time co-existing!


Cooked spaghetti is absolutely brilliant when you are a baby or toddler. It is soft, squidgy, it smells earthy and to top it off, the strands look like worms.

Why not fill a bowl or mini paddling pool with cooked spaghetti and let your little one go wild. If the room is warm enough strip them down to their nappy so they can have a fully immersive spaghetti experience.

2.Citrus fruits

Lemons, limes and oranges are a sensory treat. Cut a variety up and place them on a plate or in a simple Tupperware box with water and anything else you think will add to the aroma. The smell of these delicious fruits diffuses into the water and adds to the sensory experience. Watch your baby’s face as they experiment and explore the fruit on offer, you may want to have a camera handy as they discover the lemon!

3.Fruit and Vegetables

You don’t have to necessarily get food prepared for children to eat. Giving your little one fruit and vegetables - whole and uncooked, simply to play with like toys, is an enriching activity. It can be done at any age but it is especially great to do when they are nearly ready to wean but not quite there yet! This idea gives your little one a chance to physically explore the food – to experience each object’s unique shape, texture and smell. Knowing what foods look like before they end up on the plate is also a fantastic way to develop a healthy relationship with food.

4.Leafy Greens

‘Eat your greens’ is a common cry of mothers that have been heard for generations but if we allow our children to simply discover, explore and play with their greens without putting pressure on them to eat them, then these elusive greens will be common place to them and nothing strange or foreign.

You can literally use anything green but a tub full of herbs is a great option. Look for a variety of fresh herbs but don’t introduce too many new smells at one time as it may be a little too much for your baby to take in.

Messy play with Jelly


We can think of very few activities more exciting for a baby than diving into a bowl full of jelly! It’s slimy, cold and slippery feel is unique and will feel very new to babies who are used to being wrapped up in cotton soft baby grows. This contrast is what makes this experience so powerful. The more experiences we allow our children to explore, the more they learn about the world. If your little one (or you!) is not quite ready for a whole bowl full of jelly a little bit on a plate or tray to investigate is great too. Don’t forget your BibettaUltraBib with Sleeves! They are the perfect accessory for messy play which really does mean baby can have fun making mess and you have #messnostress!

Explore the Senses with Tots Play

The opportunity to explore different food stuffs is just one of the activities you can enjoy at a Tots Play class, along with a wide range of sensory experiences as part of their multi-activity programme. If you are just getting started with discovering sensory play, or would like some new ideas, then going to their classes can be a great way to try out lots of play experiences and see what you might like to have a go at at home.

During their classes, as well as messy play, they do lots of other activities including music, yoga, massage, sign language, and bubble time, plus a warm welcome and the opportunity to make new friends. You can find your nearest class here.

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