• Fall Sensory Bin Fun!

    🍁 Colored leaves and happy kiddos please!

    This #PlayDay we have a fall leaf sensory bin that will not disappoint!

    With this sensory bin we are hoping to engage the eyes, ears, hands, and noses!

    What we used:

    • 🍁 Fall leaves (you can use real or fake).
    • 🥜 Acorns that had fallen on the ground.
    • 👃 Cinnamon sticks.
    • 🌲 Pinecones

    🤚 Optional: kitchen tongs for our little ones that may not be ready to dive in with their hands.

    😃 Play-tip: see which item makes the loudest sound when FALLing into the bin! Do all the cinnamon sticks smell the same? Is one stronger than the next? Can you feel how bumpy those pinecones are! Almost as bumpy as a pineapple! The fun is endless!

    💡 Pro-tip: encourage your child to help gather fresh items from outside for this bin so that they are able to learn more about the growing process! Take some time to compare pictures of green leaves on trees to the way the trees are looking now. Look up a picture of an acorn when it first starts growing and compare it to what you found outside.⠀

    🤔 Living in a more urban area with less access to fresh trees and leaves? Never fear, Target Dollar Spot and Amazon Prime never disappoint! ⠀

    ❓What’s your favorite part of this sensory bin? ⠀

  • CUCUMBERS – 20 Ways to Play

    1. Slice 1/4 thick slices and roll those “wheels” together

    2. Cucumber water – discuss flavor and cut a variety of sizes/vary the thickness of your slice (which will sink and which will swim?!) 

    3. Silly faces! Those slices make great eyeballs in a pretend play routine!

    4. Cucumber caterpillars – line multiple slices up together to build a long caterpillar, get creative with his legs and antenna (we love to use shredded carrots!)! 

    5. Cucumber logs – Quarter your cucumber in long strips, those logs will build a great log cabin or castle! Don’t forget the chimney! 

    6. Freeze your cucumber slices and pop them in a drink as ice cubes!

    7. Chop mini cucumbers into small slices and stack them up into tall towers! Who can’t count the most blocks into their tower before it topples?! 

    8. Cucumber moons – for younger little ones you can discuss BIG (whole slices) and little (slices with a bite into them forming a crescent shape) moons, with older little ones discuss the moon phases, modifying your cucumber slice via bite size or with circular cookie cutters!

    9. Cucumber boats – Slice your cucumber lengthwise to create two boats, who can drive theirs through the taziki faster?!

    10. Make taziki together – there is a simple and delicious recipe here: https://www.favfamilyrecipes.com/easiest-tzatziki-sauce/

    11. Cucumber paintbrushes – quarter your cuke and present a variety of dips, paper plates make an excellent canvas for your artwork! 

    12. Cucumber seed scoop – How many seeds can you find in each slice? Do your slices have the same amount of seeds or different amounts? 

    13. Plant cucumbers in your garden together! Caring for a new veggie and getting the opportunity to watch it grow until it’s ready to pick provides tons of exposures and opportunities to discuss these “long, green sticks” will they be dark green or light green inside?! You’ll have to slice them open with your kid-safe Foost knife when they’re ready to find out! 

    14. Cucumber phones! Ring-ring! Who’s calling?! I don’t know, but you bring that whole (non-sliced) cucumber up to your ear you’ll find out! 

    15. Wash-wash-wash your veggies gently up and down, merrily, merrily, merrily, do not let them fall down! Build those veggies a big bubble bath and wash them up together – this is a great lesson in both life-skills and a great way to increase exposure with a whole cucumber!

    16. That whole cucumber makes an excellent rolling pin to roll across the table, your hands / arms, or to roll out some dough! 

    17. Cucumber shape sort – grab some cookie cutters and slice out a variety of shapes with your little one – sort them into piles by shape and size!

    18. Cucumber tic – tac – toe ! Slice your cucumber and keep half in circle shapes and cut half with a fun cookie cutter shape, use a paper plate and marker or condiment of choice to create your board and play away! 

    19. Cucumber sandwiches! With cucumber as your “bread,” apply varied toppings, feta cheese, taziki, hummus, etc in between for a fun twist on a sandwich!

    Pro Tip: If your little one gets a little bugged out with the wet, slippery cucumbers on the outside of a “sandwich” you can reverse the sandwiches and use crackers or bread externally and place the cucumber inside! 

    20. Present, present, present – Continued exposure is the key to success!

  • “GO As You GROW”

    Have you ever heard the term “Food Jag?” What does that REALLY mean anyway?

    Some little ones may request to eat the EXACT same food the EXACT same way every single day (think of some toddlers and their chicken nugget diet), until one day they “burn out” of that food and begin to refuse that too. Unfortunately, with some of our seedlings/sprouts, they may NEVER accept that food again once they eliminate it. This can continue forward until they have very few accepted foods left! 

    YIKES! What can I do?! 

    You can GROW AS YOU GO! This term refers to the idea that you can present the same food in TONS of new, different, and fun ways! Consider the possibilities – you can change:

     -SHAPE (Think: cubes, circles, sticks, grab those cookie cutters and have some fun!)

    -TEXTURE (Puree it up, add breading, crunch some cereal on top, etc.)

    -TASTE (Add in those seasonings, there are MILLIONS to explore – Don’t forget dips!)

    -COLOR (Food coloring can be a parent’s best friend – make sure you read the ingredients if you buy vs making your own food coloring – we love India Tree which is natural food color made from vegetables – why not add sprinkles, how about grating some cheese on top? Etc.) 

    -TEMPERATURE (frozen, warm or chilled, you can even think of heat such as spicy)

    Looking for ideas on how to present in new and novel ways? Be sure to check out our “20 Ways to Play” tab for 20 fun activities and novel presentation ideas!

    NOTE: It is also important to make sure you maintain a food/flavor rotation and keep preferred foods and newly integrated foods on an every other day basis at a minimum to avoid those “Food Jags” (e.g., Monday: Chicken Nuggets, Tuesday: Goulash, Wednesday: Chicken Nuggets– or maybe Turkey nuggets? What about a fish stick?! )

  • BLUEBERRIES – 20 Ways to Play

    1)    Blueberry Ice Cream! Freeze your berries, then toss a few handfuls in the blender with a splash or two of a milk of your choice (almond, oat, breast, whole, etc) and enjoy some fresh berry ice cream “paint”

    PRO-TIP: Your hands (or toes!) make great paintbrushes for your food artwork of the day!

    2) Blueberry Tic-Tac-Toe – Grab a handful of blueberries and raspberries, draw or tape out your board (#) and gogogo for the three in a row! This is a great counting game and a fun way to get your little one thinking/talking about numbers!

    3) Blueberry Toppers! Grab a handful and decorate any baked goods you have at home, muffins, cupcakes, bread. Can your little one make lines? zig-zags? Polk-a-dots? You get the idea!

    4) Blueberry Ghosts! – Grab a container of cool whip and scoop out some “ghosts!” Next up, allow your little one to add in their blueberry eyes! Mastered the ghost? Try a snowman next!

    LANGUAGE TIP: “He needs buttons, let’s count them out together! 1,2,3!”

    Note: Snowman work best if you spread out 2D circles on a flat surface (baking sheet, table, plate) with your whipped cream vs the 3D plops /blobs used for ghosts! 🙂 

    5) Blueberry Straw Contest – See who can suck the blueberries with a straw and drop their berry into a cup first!

    6) Blueberry Kabobs – Grab a coffee stirrer (Check out your local Starbucks or Panera) or a chopstick and poke up or slide on as many blueberries as you can! 

    7) Make Blueberry Playdough! – this is a great interaction with and food preparation activity!

    Blueberry PlayDoh Recipe

    Ingredients: 2 cups plain flour, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup blueberries (or more for an even brighter colour), 1 cup salt, 2 tbsp oil (you can use almost any oil, but I used canola oil for this version), 4 tbsp cream of tarter. 

    Directions: Place the blueberries in a small saucepan with the water, bring to the boil, and then simmer on low for around 10 minutes or until the water darkens and becomes purple in colour. While that is simmering, add the dry ingredients to a heat-proof bowl and mix to combine. Strain the purple water from the berries and put the berries in a small plastic container in the fridge to eat later as a snack or dessert – yum! Slowly add the hot liquid – it needs to be very hot – to the flour mixture and stir to combine until it becomes play dough. Stir until it becomes dough. Once the dough is cool enough to touch, take it out of the bowl and knead it until it becomes smooth. 

    Recipe Courtesy of:  www.thecrafttrain.com

    8) Blueberry Fingerprints ! – Mash up your berries or pre-create a puree (don’t forget to let your little one help prepare it! GEt out those aprons!) and make some fingerprint art work!

    PRO-TIP: Crossing two thumbprints makes a cute “thumb” heart! 

    9) Make Blueberry Popsicles – blend up some blueberry puree with your little one, let them help you pour yogurt and the blueberry puree into the popsicle molds, freeze and enjoy!

    10) Blueberry Smash/Splat Poppers – Line up your berries and pop down the line as you smash them on your plate or across your table (We totally encourage singing a rendition of “Follow the blueberry road!” to the tune of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!”)! Talk with your little one about how berries “pop”/“splat” open in our mouths when we bite into them and “pop” them with our teeth! Some of our Little One’s will need this mental preparation before they are ready to handle such a big sensation in their mouth! 

    11) Dancing Blueberry Experiment  – Grab a clear glass, some clear soda (Sprite, Sierra Mist, La Croix, etc.) and some freeze dried or dried blueberries. Pour your soda in the glass (or bowl) and let your little one drop in the blueberries.  As the bubbles begin to coat the blueberries, they will be carried up-up and away! As the bubbles burst, the berries will sink, re-coat with bubbles and float back up “dancing” away! 

    12) Berry Toast Faces – How many funny faces can you make on your slice of toast?!

    13) Berry Plop – Practice picking up your berries with your fingers (or mouths) and plopping them into a tin or bowl!

    14) Berry Smoothie – Have your little one help add handfuls of blueberries to the blender while you prepare a tasty smoothie! 

    15) Blueberry Roll Race! – draw a  finish line with tape or berry “pop” line and ready, set, ROLL your berries across the table! 

    16) Blueberry Pancake Bites or Puree! – Have your little one help prepare blueberry pancake bites or puree! Check out a quick and tasty recipe here: http://www.motherthyme.com/2016/03/blueberry-pancake-bites.html via The Mother Thyme 

    *Is your little one still on puree solids? Or does your tot have a little brother or sister who they can help prepare a puree for? Check out this fantastic home-blended blueberry, avocado, banana puree via The Baby Foodie: https://babyfoode.com/blog/5-minute-banana-blueberry-avocado-baby-puree/

    17) Read “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McClosky – 

    “Pick” the berries while reading the book (Place them out on a green bush you created from construction paper and laminated to keep it dry and reusable!), have tin, bag, bowl or container to put blueberries in when your Little One “picks” them from the bush! Next up, Feed the bear (you can make a bear from brown paper bag or add brown bag ears and a nose or eyes to a bowl you have at home!)

    You can borrow this book from your local library or purchase from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Blueberries-Sal-Robert-McCloskey/dp/014050169X

    18) Blueberry Painting – with a brush, your Little One’s fingers or maybe even their toes!

    19) Blueberry Picking Excursion –  Grab a reusable bag, box or tin and head to a berry picking farm near you!  

    20) Present Those Blueberries – Remember, exposure is key, tolerating one blueberry on or near our plate is a HUGE win for some of our Little Ones, maybe even just tolerating them on the counter across the room. Wherever your little one is in their feeding process, know you’re doing a great job! 

  • STRAWBERRIES – 20 Ways to Play

    1)     Strawberry cups! Cut out the center of those berries and fill them up with a snack surprise (chocolate, ice cream, whipped cream, peanut butter, etc.,)!

    2)     Try out homemade strawberry fruit roll ups – use this link for a fun and simple recipe https://divascancook.com/homemade-strawberry-fruit-rollup-fruit-leather-recipe-oven/

    3)     Strawberry animal ears are purrfect! Use your sliced strawberries to create fun creatures and see who can think of the most animals that have pointy ears!

    4)     Off strawberry picking we will go! Find your local farm and pick farm fresh! Bring a reusable bag, basket, or even a pillowcase form home to collect those berries!

    5)     Strawberry smash! Add your smashed strawberries to a homemade biscuit for some yummy strawberry shortcake.

    6)     Strawberry hearts make an excellent afternoon craft, use your slices to make hearts of all sizes!

    7)     Strawberry boat race! Use toothpicks, halved strawberries as your boats and pieces for your sail, place into a bowl of water. READY. SET. GO!

    8)     Imagination will flow with strawberry puppets! Place your strawberries on skewers, or your fingers, and act out a play or create your own story. This is an awesome opportunity to work on pretend play and food experience with your little one!

    9)     Add a splash of taste and color to your little ones water by adding sliced strawberries for a fresh, new experience. 

    10)   DIY strawberry planters for the win! Buy a plant and watch them grow!

    11)   Paint your strawberry picture. Blend strawberries with yogurt and use as finger point, or use pieces of strawberries as your brush.

    12)  Rudolph the red nose strawberry! Cut out the center and give your best reindeer impression.

    13)  Honk honk! Speaking of noses, I bet it also makes a great strawberry clown nose!

    14)  Strawberry football! Give a slice or a whole strawberry a flick and see who can make the farthest GOAL!

    15)  Strawberry seeds make counting fun! Cut your strawberry in sections and see if you can count each and every seed- get out those magnification glasses !

    16)  S is for strawberry! Use your strawberries to make the letter S! While you’re at it, maybe spell out your little one’s name too!

    17)  Strawberry shapes. Use small cookie cutters to make your favorite strawberry shapes.

    18)  Bobbing for strawberries! See who gets the most strawberries on their plate.

    19)  Strawberry bag detective! If you little one is not ready to get hands on, put your strawberries in a clear, plastic bag to squish and move that strawberry around to get a better feel and look. They may even be ready to open the bag after for a little smell!

    20)  Lastly, serve the strawberry. They may not eat it, but remember a little bit on the plate goes a long way for exposure! 

  • Bananas – 20 Ways to Play

    1) Bananas are the BEST shape. Try making them into smiles, mustaches, phones, or a moon!

    2) Smash & Mash! What is more fun than smashing a food? Start with a fork and then slowly work towards your little smashed the banana with their own hands!

    3) Banana towers! Slice those bananas up and see who can stack the tallest tower! Pro-tip: nutella makes a great adhesive!

    4) We have to go for the classic banana boat complete with teddy graham passengers or even carrot stick riders!

    5) SING! We have a song that we like to sing while peeling our bananas: “peel banana, peel-peel banana -I said peel banana, peel-peel banana”

    6) 5 Little Monkeys Slicing a Banana, One Said “Ooo” I think I’ll try this Latah. Make up your own rhymes and dance around with the bananas!

    7) Try bananas in something else! Blend them into a smoothie, mix them up with yogurt, put them on top of a cupcake! So many possibilities!

    8) Banana food science! Take a picture of freshly ripe, green bananas when you first buy them and then encourage your child to take another picture each day for the next week. Collage them together on your phone and talk about the ripening process!

    9) Banana shapes! Sliced bananas make the perfect canvas for using small cookie cutters! Try out circles, squares, hearts, and stars! Bonus points if you can turn it into a shape sorting activity for learning more about basic concepts!

    10) Get to baking! Have your little one assist you in making banana bread or muffins. Pro-tip: Try using a shorter spoon [or no spoon at all if they are ready] to do the mixing so that they slowly move closer to interacting with the batter!

    11) I scream, you scream for banana ice-cream! (try blending frozen bananas, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice)!

    12) Put it on a stick and dip! Try using a kebab or popsicle stick by placing half a banana on it to dip in melted chocolate! Let it cool and eat as is or pop in the freezer. Want to earn mega bonus points: Bring out the sprinkles for extra fun!

    13) Write secret notes on the peel! They will brown up for a fun surprise!

    14) Instead of gingerbread, try a banana house! Grab the toothpicks and banana pieces and work together to make a one of a kind house!

    15) Bananas make great stepping stones! Place banana slices in different patterns and try “hopping” other foods from stone to stone! Bonus: Use a preferred food! Eating a teddy graham that’s touched a banana is a small, but wonderful #foodwin!

    16) Ever thought of trying a banana ramp? Use grapes or other round foods to roll down a half-cut banana ramp. You can make it a fun game, too!

    17) Banana relay for the win! Set up two cups at each end of the counter with five banana slices. Move the banana slices from one cup to the other! Start with hands and then get creative (move the slices on your elbows, chins, noses, etc. all the while getting closer to the mouth > without ANY pressure).

    18) Banana nose-roll! You read the correctly, use a cylinder-shaped piece of banana and try rolling with your noses! [we promise, the more silly, the better!]

    19) Banana slicing! Work on that kitchen prep-practice by allowing your little one to slice a banana (with a child-friendly knife and supervision of course).

    20) Finally, serve the banana! Even if they don’t go ‘bananas’ over it, it’s great to expose them to a banana on their plate/tray!

  • Scent Shakers

    👃I smell a good time coming your way! Let’s switch it up from a sensory bin to discovering a unique way to tickle those senses with ➡️ scent shakers! The olfactory system is a key component while eating and even when preparing to eat. It is also a sensory system that we feel lacks attention when it comes down to play-based activities and exploration.

    @little_play_ideas had the amazing idea of using salt shakers for this activity and we are going to put our own spin on it. Put those little noses to the test with this fun odor-ful sensory activity!

    ✅ Gather up your supplies including:

    -Empty salt and pepper shakers

    -Smells of your choice

    -We used: cinnamon sticks, mint, lavender, grapefruit, orange and lemon

    -An explorative attitude!

    👇 Now what? Here are a couple activities to try out:

    -match the smell > try having your little one match the smell to a food (cinnamon sticks to cinnamon applesauce)

    -if they’re feeling brave > ask your little one to cover their eyes while they smell and use their words to tell you what they’re sniffing

    -get your little one involved in prep > have them explore the outdoors or even your pantry to create their own scent shaker

    -try placing different foods into the shakers > explore a food your little one might not even be ready to touch yet by simply encouraging a smell…or two!

    -try matching essential oils on cotton balls to the food on a table or salt shaker with the food

    ❓ What does all of this have to do with food? Eating and interacting with food is a highly sensory ridden experience, meaning that engaging with food across the senses can lead to your child being one step closer to exploring that food in other ways (touching, licking, tasting, etc.)

    👃❤️ What is one of your favorite food smells? Let us know below!

  • Gardening Sensory Bin

    Sensory bins are a go to prep tool for us before feeding therapy.

    Want to garden indoors without the mess?

    Sensory bins are our jam! The best part about these little adventure boxes is that you do not need to put in hours of effort. Fun can be had with just a few “ingredients.”

    Our little garden bin includes:

    🐰 Rabbit tongs

    🍴 Black beans (uncooked)

    🍅 $3 Felt veggies from Target (don’t tell your husbands that we sent you)  

    Find a clear storage container ➡️ stir it up ➡️ BAM = hours of fun

    Sensory bins are a great way to get “food” ready. Not all of our little one’s are ready to jump into play with foods. This can be a great opportunity to expose your child to a variety of textures, smells, visual experiences, tastes, and sounds in a fun and playful way for the entire family.

    Do you have a favorite sensory bin? We want to know. Drop us a line 👇 in the comments.

  • How to work your little one up from an Oreo to an apple slice – “Linking To Learn”

    Ever heard of “Food Chaining?”

    Does your little one ONLY accept Goldfish Crackers and Oreos right now? Consider Linking to Learn !

    “Food Chaining (Fraker)” or the creation of “Food Hierarchies (Toomy)” refers to the idea of using foods in a planned sequence to build a path to guide your little one as they work up towards experiencing a novel food.

    This requires that we consider the sensory properties (Need a refresh? Read more about our 7 senses and how they apply to feeding here → http://our-table.org/uncategorized/true-or-false-we-have-5-senses/ ) of a food and consider how we can guide our little ones as we LINK foods to help them LEARN about new foods.

    Let’s try it out! Take a food your child always accepts (e.g., Oreos) now.. how do we work up to a fresh banana or apple? Read on!

    Okay, so they have their regular, crunchy, chocolate Oreo – where do I start? Well, let’s grab a Lemon Oreo – we changed the TASTE and COLOR for our little one → Now they have their Lemon Oreo, that Lemon Oreo is yellow (COLOR) and round (SHAPE), next up let’s give them a different yellow (COLOR), crunchy (TEXTURE) food – how about a chickpea puff (We love Hippeas Chickpea Puffs!)!! → Now they have yellow, crunchy, long chickpea puff, where to next? Let’s try some yellow (COLOR), long (SHAPE), squishy (TEXTURE) shredded cheese → Okay, they have yellow, long, squishy shredded cheese – next up, lets try a yellow (COLOR), crunchy (TEXTURE), corn chip (start with a long strip shape (SHAPE) and then hop back into yellow, round and crunchy with a fully round chip!)! → Okay they have a yellow, crunchy, round corn chip; lets try out a white (COLOR), round (SHAPE), crunchy (TEXTURE) banana chip (or maybe even a freeze dried banana slice or banana yogurt melt!)! → Now they have their white, round, crunchy banana chip, let’s flip to a round, white, squishy banana slice!

    Want to keep going?! Okay they’re exploring the banana slice, let’s mash up some of that banana and add cinnamon. Next up, you can try some soft, cooked cinnamon apples, and maybe next thing you know you’ll be exploring crunchy yellow apple slices together !

    NOTE: If you’re a therapist or a parent to a seedling or sprout, we recommend you keep an eye out for the book Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet By: Cheri Fraker, Laura Walbert, Mark Fishbein, and Sibyl Cox. This is an awesome resource about “Food Chaining” which should be on every feeding therapist’s bookshelf !

    We also recommend you check out the course The Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding Therapy developed by Kay Toomey ! A feeding therapist MUST! Please Note: The SOS Approach to Feeding program was developed by Dr. Kay Toomey. For more information on the SOS Approach to Feeding program, please visit www.sosapproach.com.

  • MANGOES – 20 Ways to Play

    1) Mango Tango! Grab a slice and dance away!

    2) Literacy fun with mangoes! Slice away and count mango pieces into different number piles! 

    3) Mangoes make a great sun! Arrange them into different sun patterns!

    4) Mango popsicles to beat the heat! Encourage your child to dump all the ingredients in the blender and even help pour into the molds!

    5) Try out the mango roll! Grab a raw, whole mango and roll it back and forth across the kitchen table! See how many times you can go!

    6) Play the mango balance game! Grab a small, cubed piece of mango and balance it on your…NOSE! See how long we can keep it up there! If your little isn’t ready for the nose, try the back of their hand first!

    7) Mango Tic-Tac-Toe! Get out your small cookie cutters and slice up two different shapes of mangoes for a good old fashioned game!

    8) Mango markers make for great fun! Slice a long strip of mango and dip it up while you make your own masterpiece!

    9) Mango ice cubes anyone? Freeze cubes of mango and try tossing them into water to make for a fun twist on water, but also a fun prep time for your little!

    10) Mango -head! Use different pieces of food and toothpicks to turn a mango into your very own potato head!

    11) Mango sensory bins! Dice up those mangos and toss ice cubes in as well! Have your kiddo go diving for the cubes for an engaging sensory experience!

    12) Mango caterpillars are always a hit! Grab a kebab (or a Starbucks stopper) and stack pieces of mango on then slowly inch them around the table!

    13) Beep-beep goes the mango school bus! Slice up a large piece of mango and make your own buses! Have races, stop for pick-ups (little blueberry kids), and sing wheels on the bus!

    14) Mango mustache fun! Slice up a curved piece of mango and be as SILLY as possible with your new yellow mustache!

    15) Mango squeeze! See who can squeeze a strip of mango into a measuring cup to get out the most juice!

    16) Mango towers! See who can stack the highest tower! Bonus points if you can incorporate sticky dip in-between pieces to reinforce!

    17) Give it a go with a mango map! Grab a piece of paper and create rivers, cities, and more with little pieces of mangoes!

    18) Mix it up! Try out your very own mango smoothie recipe!

    19) Mango shape activity! Draw out shapes on a piece of paper and then place wax-paper over it to allow your little to work on building shapes!

    20) Last, but not least, serve the mango!