5 Surprising Sensory Activities to Help Picky Eaters Please welcome Alisha Grogan MOT, OTR/L from…
Elf on the Shelf: Sensory Taste, Smell and Sight Activities
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Last week we had so much fun playing and learning with our little elf doing many tactile activities. My kids keep pulling out the pasta and shaving cream to try the activities all over again. Both seem to be the popular entertainments of the week. That is why this week we are focusing on additional sensory activities that include taste, sound and smell. It will be the last article in our Elf on the Shelf Sensory Series.
What Are Sensory Aversions?
It’s getting closer to Christmas and that means an increase of sights, sounds, smells and new foods. Some kids struggle with sensory aversions in these areas. Sensory food aversion is one of the most common feeding disorders in early childhood. Children with food issues can show signs in early infancy in relation to sensitivity when changing formulas and when latching on the breast.
More commonly, these issues arise during the first six to 12 month period when the child is exposed to a variety of food. The problems can continue into toddler years when independent levels increase. The child will exhibit hypersensitivity to food, especially with new items. There is a reluctance to try new foods, and food refusal is not related to allergy or other medical illness. Most toddlers vary day to day on what foods they are willing to eat or try, but kids with food aversions usually stay consistent on their food choices. Usually refusing choices from whole food groups such as meat, vegetables and fruits. We sometimes see hypersensitivity in children with food aversion in other sensory areas such as sound, smell and sight. It poses a great challenge when these aversions co-exist.
Home Activities to help with Sensory Aversions
If your child is struggling with any number of sensory aversions (sound, light, food textures), try some of these options at home:
- Offer one preferred choice of food for your child along with what the family is eating.
- Do your best to maintain scheduling meal and snack times (avoid grazing all day).
- In the beginning, parents decide what to serve and children decide on how much to eat. Start small and avoid unrealistic expectations.
- Drink milk at meals, water in between.
- Provide many opportunities for children to smell new foods and other things that have strong odors.
- Play with instruments
- Use a microphone for sound enhancement
- Use listening games
- Sing songs for learning (for example, ABCs, days of the week and Old MacDonald)
- Create a visual scavenger hunt
- Play the game “I spy”
- Buy hidden pictures books
How the Elf can help?
Let’s incorporate some of these sensory exercises into some Elf on the Shelf set-ups to help avoid sensory aversions.
Elf says Candy Canes are a food group
- Candy Canes or Lollipops
The set-up is easy for this activity. Grab your elf and place him in your Christmas tree and hang some Candy Canes on the branches for each child. This activity is two-fold. Number one, peppermint in a strong taste and sometimes avoided by children. Expand their taste buds with this treat! Secondly, by sucking on the candy cane, this actually helps with oral motor skills that relate to speech. It can begin to open those receptors within the mouth used to say their letters and sounds. This also works with lollipops. The sucking exercise can help with lip strength, lip movement, and tongue awareness and strength.
Meal Time Elf
It’s fun and exciting to eat off a new plate. A new plate provides your child with an extra incentive if they have some food aversions. It can be a little present from your elf to your child. Place the elf on the table next to the new plate(s) and wait for a fun reaction for the kids. They will probably want to use their plate for every meal all the next week or longer.
Elf in the Band
Have your child join in with the Elf as he plays with their instruments. You can place the elf almost anywhere in your house and set up all the instruments around the elf.
Extra fun tip: Place a Barbie or a few dolls with the elf along with other instruments so it looks like they are all playing in the band.
Elf finding hidden objects
Pull out your hidden picture books or buy some new festive ones here. Have your elf sitting in a chair in a room where your kids like to sit and read. Open the book and place it in the lap of the elf. Later, encourage your kids to find the hidden pictures in the book and review it together.
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