Lemons + Paint in Sensory Play

The infants were provided with two provocations using lemons one week.  The teachers set out a water tub and placed the lemon peels inside with just enough water for them to splash with their little hands. It wasn’t long before they were at the tub investigating the peels and waving them around in the water.


We chose a paint pallet inspired by the lemon; a bright yellow color, neon yellow and some white paint. Only the lemon peels were used; the teacher first sliced the fresh lemons in half then scooped out the inside of it. These materials were chosen in effort to allow the children to explore the characteristics of the lemon and allow them an opportunity to become familiar with food.  To spark the children’s curiosity and interest we added water and paint to the tub. This allowed the children to truly discover its characteristics by touching, tasting, and the smelling. By using real food versus toy food it allows a child to really explore his/her world around them.




In this project, the children immediately crawled right up to the water tub, stood up and looked inside and with no hesitation started grabbing the lemon peels. Shortly after they realized there was just the right amount of water to splash with. The children were quick to pick up the lemons by using both their hands. They squeezed down on the lemons with their hands and would bring it to their mouth, allowing them to taste the inner and outer texture of the lemon peel. After some splashing of the water the children quickly discovered how to scoop water into the lemon half and then pour back out into the tub, which brought much excitement and laughter to them. While most of the children took part in exploring in this manner, one child chose to take his time, looking intently at the color and contemplating whether he wanted to feel the texture of it or not. With much patience and thought he finally joined in with his peers in exploring with the lemons.



Children are multisensory- learners. When a child is able to explore the different textures and looks of actual food, they are able to really take it in. By allowing food exploration the children were able to dig through, smash, squeeze, sniff, pour, and dump and truly discover the characteristics of their food.


This provided a significant sensory experience for the infant’s intellectual development. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills. By squeezing down on the lemons the children used their muscles in their hands. Sensory play also enhances memory. The children are much more likely to remember this experience and will be able to apply their knowledge of color mixing to more complex concepts involving color theory. Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.


“Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes, and their ears, the resources of forms, materials, sounds, and colors.” –Loris Malaguzzi



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