The infants loved playing with sweet potatoes on Friday! They rolled the mushy food around on the floor and enjoyed exploring its squishy texture and bright color. At one point, the teachers placed a sliced sweet potato on the light table, which magnified the brilliant orange color even more. The infants were able to explore the sweet potato in a different way because of the lighting!
The infants were able to explore the sweet potato by tasting, touching, squeezing, smelling, smearing, spreading, and working on their motor skills and fine motor skills. Around this age, infants typically begin exploring objects with their mouths. Parents will often witness their children put anything and everything into their mouths. Children do this in order to explore the world and make sense of it in their own way. Whether they’re making noises or sticking foreign objects (or even food) into their mouths, this is an exploration process for them. Moreover, “mouthing” appears to coincide with the development and production of consonants. Studies have suggested that vocalization occurs more frequently when an infant places an object in his or her mouth than when they is mouthing their hands and fingers. According to Dr. Suzanne Evans Morris, in each child’s first month’s of life, their main avenue for learning and exploration is through their mouths: whether they’re sucking on their fingers, edge of a blanket, pacifier, bottle, or any other object. Through this type of mouthing the baby becomes familiar with general sensations of softness, firmness, and hardness. By allowing the children to explore different objects, tastes, and textures in a way that is natural for them, we are encouraging their sensory and oral motor development.
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, colors, sizes and smells. 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.