Thanksgiving Sensory Food Activities
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
Thanksgiving-themed sensory food activities can encourage your kids to explore new textures and tastes this holiday. This type of hands-on learning can help your children expand their food repertoire and decrease anxiety associated with festive family meals. Here are some food ideas and cost effective tips to do sensory play before turkey day!
Thanksgiving Foods: Thanksgiving can be especially stressful if you have a child that is hesitant about holiday meals and unfamiliar foods. That’s why I elicit these food activities before Thanksgiving. Preparing kiddos for the big meal can inspire them to try everything on the menu! Plus, you can offer sensory food play again after the holiday with leftovers. Give your child multiple opportunities to explore and learn about these traditional foods.
- Mashed potatoes: This squishy, thick puree is always a favorite for Thanksgiving sensory play. Use instant mashed potatoes from the dollar store for an inexpensive way to explore this food with their hands. The Tiny Spoon is fun for stirring, too! Once your child is comfortable and starts to lick their fingers, try introducing your homemade (and more expensive) version of mashed potatoes.
- Gravy: Introduce white and brown gravy to switch up the color and challenge your child’s visual sense. Have a sensory taste test and see the flavor that your child prefers. Try using the cheap season packet gravies to save a few bucks before you offer your homestyle recipe.
- Turkey: Offer different textures of turkey to your kids. Ground turkey, a turkey sandwich and a turkey leg are very different! I like to buy a turkey leg and have the kiddos enjoy the sensory experience of shredding it. Most love to get their hands greasy and pull it apart, others like to wear gloves, but all of them love learning about the texture of the meat.
- Cranberry sauce: Start with canned cranberry sauce for a low-cost option. Have your child slice it, squeeze it, pinch it, scoop it or suck some of it through a straw! Talk to your kids about sour and tart tastes and have fun exploring this colorful food.
- Pumpkin pie: Choose a low-priced pumpkin pie and have your child explore how to use a pie slicer. Or pick up some canned pumpkin puree and teach your little one how to stir it in a bowl with a spoon (which is a developmental feeding milestone). Add ice cream, whipped cream or sprinkles for more sensory fun!
- Sweet potato: There are many ways to introduce this yummy veggie into a sensory food activity. You can offer it frozen, canned or even baked, which is my favorite way to present it to kids. I call it a Sweet Potato Bar. Simply bake a small potato and offer your kiddos a variety of sensory food toppers. Check out my ideas for kid-friendly sweet potato creations here.
- Stuffing: I use the boxed stuffing for a quick (and cheap) way to expose kids to the multiple textures, smells and flavors of stuffing. There are so many varieties from chicken flavored, herb enhanced, savory seasoned, classic and even gluten free. Try crushing it with a rolling pin for a great sensory (and messy) crumb activity. Or make ‘stuffing balls’ by having the kids conform the stuffing into a ball. Once they practice with stuffing they will be more willing to eat it on Thanksgiving Day!
Cleanup: The key to making food play successful is to make it fun for the kids and easy for you to clean up! That’s why I love using the ezpz Play Mat. This mat has a large surface area specifically designed for sensory play. Plus, it can be thrown right into the dishwasher!
How do you introduce the sensory aspects of Thanksgiving foods? What are some of your family favorites for turkey day? Let us know if you used any of our feeding products for your Thanksgiving table setting by tagging us in your pics! #ezpzfun #thanksgiving
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Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).