To begin our exploration of fall foods and colors, the teachers set up a pumpkin for the infants to explore! First, the teachers placed the pumpkin in the center of the room for the children to touch and investigate. The infants were immediately intrigued and loved the shape and color of the giant fruit. Only one child was hesitant at first and stayed away, but after awhile the child started to come around and slowly explore the pumpkin.
In order to continue the exploration and increase intrigue, the next day the teacher cut the top of the pumpkin open so the children could feel the texture inside. The children absolutely loved the gooey mess and sticking their hands inside the fruit to feel the web-like texture. They were clapping their hands together and laughing at the squishy mess. Some of the children even enjoyed putting the top of the pumpkin back on and it often fell inside the pumpkin because the children kept pushing it in.
This simple activity is an excellent example of sensory play for infants. They were able to touch, feel, taste, smell, and see this natural food, opening their mind to different textures, tastes, densities, colors, sizes and smells within the same fruit.
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.
How do we know children are learning from sensory play? We know this because we believe children are competent learners, even as infants. Our goal isn’t to treat infants as helpless because then their learning opportunities would be incredibly limited. Our goal with food exploration is to allow them to learn about the world in a way that’s comfortable to them and provide a way for the children to demonstrate various ways of knowing, doing, and learning through multiple ways of communicating. Think infants can’t communicate? Think again! Babies communicate by laughing, reaching out, having back and forth exchanges of cooing with adults, using various cries to express different needs, searching for sound, and repeating activities that have produced interesting results! Since infants and toddlers learn by using their senses, then our goal with this activity was to engage their sense and give them an opportunity to explore and investigate through sensory play!