Should I Let My Child Play With Food?

Baby playing with food
You’ll hear a lot of different opinions about this topic, but many doctors and early childhood educators actually believe it is a good idea.

Playing with their food:

  • Helps babies learn to feed themselves
  • May prevent picky eating
  • Helps babies build their brains
  • Gives you a moment to catch up!

Playing with food begins as soon as babies are old enough to sit in a high chair. They love to reach for food and explore it in a hands-on, messy experiment of texture and taste. It may not be pretty, but it is a normal and healthy stage of development.

There is an element of play, but there are also important stages of learning taking place. Like mastering the pincer grasp, which eventually leads to holding a pencil! And kids who play with their food can be faster to learn words associated with food textures. In a 2013 study, toddlers who poked, prodded, swirled, mashed and even threw their food were interacting with key developmental concepts more than other children.  

And playing with your food isn’t just for babies, many preschool programs include activities where children participate in "sensory sessions," and touch, listen, taste, and smell different kinds of foods—then share observations with each other.

At any age it's fun to sing a song while you and your child “play” with your food. Here is one where you can make up your own variations together about the foods you like and how you cook and eat them.

All Around the Kitchen
Soup, soup, put it in the pot,
warm it up, warm it up, eat it while it's hot!

Bagel, bagel, put it in the toaster,
warm it, toast it, eat it with some jelly!

Ice cream, ice cream, put it in my tummy,
I like (flavor), yummy, yummy, yummy!

This post was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here, and email us at learning@multcolib.org if you have any questions.

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