Picnic in the Garden: Sensory Play and Sensory Foods for the Outdoors
Sensory Play and Sensory Foods for the Outdoors
Summer is quickly upon us which means the kids that have been clawing at the windows can now be set free to run, play, yell and just generally air themselves out. But summer can mean a different set of challenges when you have a child with sensory issues. Summer means wind, bright light, dirt and bugs and a general atmosphere that can be overwhelming.
But summer is all about baby steps; it’s about easing out of winter and taking deep breaths under blue skies. It’s about checkered picnic blankets and snacks outside and watering cans and digging in the dirt. It can provide the perfect chance to help your child grow into the outdoors. Try some of these sensory activities to help your child have a party in the garden.
What’s a party without refreshments? Having a child whose been in feeding therapy most of his life and who was tube fed all liquids until almost two, I’m no stranger to food fears or aversions. The key here is to continue to try new things, but in small doses. Eating outside provides the perfect opportunity to present old foods in a new surrounding and perhaps sneak some new ones in, too.
1. Ants on a Log – Combining textures can often be one of the biggest challenges for kids who have sensory issues. Try the classic “ants on a log” but make those ants march. Start with a plain banana and then a third of the way up add peanut butter and then when you’re almost at the end, add a few raisins or whatever small dried fruit your child is comfortable with. That way, they can experience it in stages.
2. Food Kabobs – Any food on a stick is great for picnics. And for some reason, when put on a stick, that blueberry or cheese cube or tomato becomes a lot more fun. Even if they don’t want to eat it, encourage them to hold it or pull off pieces. Coming in contact with the food is half the battle.
3. Dirt Pudding – This is another great way to experiment with food combinations. Pick your child’s favorite pudding flavor (it doesn’t have to be chocolate) and then let them help you sprinkle on the cookie crumbs of choice (graham cracker, Nilla wafer, or Oreo are all family favorites). Lastly, let them put the classic gummy worms on top. If they help make it, they’re more likely to eat it. Also, it’s a great way to introduce them to dirt and bugs in a new form.
4. Grow and Eat – If you fancy yourself even a tiny bit skilled in gardening, pick one of your child’s favorite foods and let them help you plant some. Strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes and peppers are all pretty easy plants to grow Show them a picture and give them a taste of whatever you are planting so that when it grows, they know that they helped. It’s amazing to see their joy at putting food on the table.
(Continued on page 2)