The teachers have started a new activity where they give the infants different types of food every Friday. Foods range from various fruits and vegetables, some expected and some exotic. So far the teachers have let them explore peaches, watermelon, lettuce, and coconuts.
To start the activity, the teachers place the infants in the middle of the room with the foods and allow them to handle each item individually. Allowing the children to explore the foods individually gives each child the opportunity to feel the texture, study the color, and gain a unique perspective on the item. When we introduced the peaches, the children loved squeezing and sucking on them. In addition, they thoroughly enjoyed digging their nails into the fruit and slowly peeling the skin away with their little fingers to expose the sweet orange-yellow fruit.
When the teachers introduced the watermelon to the children, they were immediately fascinated. The infants stared at the enormous, bright green fruit and sat around it for a moment to study it from afar. Finally, one of the children moved forward and curiously approached the watermelon, pushed it, and made it roll to one of the other children sitting in the circle. That was an immediate icebreaker, and all the infants began touching and playing with the larger-than-life fruit. One infant even tried to bite into it, but found that it was difficult to sink his gums into because it just kept rolling away.
We decided to add another element to the lettuce and placed it on top of the light table. The light shining through the green leaves mesmerized the infants. We placed the children around the light table and situated the big heads of lettuce on top for them to explore. The children loved the glowing green color and enjoyed feeling the texture of the leaves. They immediately dove in and tore the leaves apart, some children delicately created little tears and some ripped the leaves apart. There were shreds of lettuce everywhere!
When the teachers introduced the coconuts, the children immediately began rolling them around the room and petting its hairy shell. Soon, they began to bang their hands on the top of the coconut, testing their theories of how hard the coconut really is. Only one child was a little scared of the hairy brown fruit and decided to steer clear of the coconut.
This simple activity is an excellent example of sensory play for infants. They were able to touch, feel, taste, smell, and see natural foods, opening their mind to different textures, tastes, densities, colors, sizes and smells. We tried to give them contrasting fruits and vegetables:
- Big, round watermelon
- Soft, delicate peach
- Thin, glowing lettuce
- Hairy, hard coconut
Sensory play with infants has been proven to improve motor skills, cognitive development, creativity, social development, raise awareness of how the world works, contribute to language acquisition, and is a therapeutic experience. Since infants don’t have words to describe what they encounter, they are still able to make sense of the information they experience through their senses.
This is an excellent activity that parents can do at home as well! (You’d be surprised by the joy it brings you to watch a fascinated infant explore something new.) By providing a food that is found in nature, you can communicate with your infant and explore the item with them.