Time To Get Dirty
As children grow from babies to toddlers, they start exploring objects with their eyes and hands instead of their mouth—not that they won’t try to take a bite of play dough or a mud cake, but at least their default mode of exploration isn’t the mouth anymore! This progression implies that children can now explore different art mediums under supervision, which also means parents need to brace themselves for paint smudges and doodles on tables and walls!
When you encourage your children to play with materials with different textures and consistencies, you provide them with an opportunity to develop their sensory integration skills. Sensory integration is a term used to describe the brain’s ability to make sense of different sensory inputs at the same time (visual, auditory, touch and movement) and to make an appropriate response to them.
Playing with sand, water, edible finger paint, mud, a little bit of whipped cream on a tray or even cooked spaghetti also provides your children with great opportunities to explore their emerging creative abilities and fine motor skills. If you don’t want to mess up your home, you can get a small inflatable plastic baby pool for your kids to play in. Place them in the empty pool with the play medium of your choice and make sure you are available to supervise them all the time. Don’t let them eat substances that are not meant to be eaten (like mud), and make sure you have some water and towels on hand to clean them once they are done.
Now is also a good time to give children a little more control during meals and snacks, but still under your supervision. Fasten them securely on a high chair with a tray and place some cooked noodles on the tray for them to sample. You can also give them steamed vegetables or even sticky rice. Although this could be messy at first, it’s a great way to start letting your kids be more independent with their food.
Along the way, you may observe that your child may have developed an aversion for some textures. Do not force them to play with textures they dislike and instead introduce to them a variety of other textures they can choose from. Later on, you may reintroduce those disliked textures and see how well children would receive them.