Taste Safe Sensory Play for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Babies
Sensory play is so much fun. From sensory bins to nature walks where you listen for sounds, there is just so much you can do with it!
There are huge benefits to sensory activities, and there are just so many ways to fit it into your day. Kids make their own activities by simply putting their fingers in everything they can. (I’m assuming these aren’t just my kids.) Even just inviting your child to listen and look can be a sensory experience.
There is one thing that some sensory activities for toddlers don’t always accommodate. That is a child’s desire to taste, well, everything! We all know babies love to put things in their mouths from just a month old or so, but the big kids like to do it sometimes too.
So when I’m looking for sensory ideas, even sensory activities for 3 year olds, I still consider the taste factor. Why not embrace it?
Here are some of our favorite taste safe sensory play ideas.
Taste Safe Sensory Play
Everything on this list is taste safe. By that I mean it is technically edible. That doesn’t mean that it will taste good, or that you necessarily want your child to eat a lot of it. But if it gets in your baby’s mouth or your toddler sneaks a lick, that’s okay.
Sensory Bin Ideas
When I think of a sensory table for toddlers, the first thing I think about is a sensory bin. This is a fancier way of saying a container with some stuff dumped in it. 😉 And this sort of edible sensory play is great for kids. You can set it up, then back off and let them go.
I love sensory bins for just this reason, I put it together and then I’m done. The kids can scoop and pour, transfer and measure. They play and I get other work done. Wins!
Easy Edible Sensory Bin Fillers
Yes, good old water is always a winner. And yes, it is a sensory experience.
Perfect for summer days. You can crush it, use cubes, add food coloring. Lots of options.
Just simple, dry, plain oats offer up a new feeling. (This works quite well for construction truck play!)
Dry or cooked, these provide great exploration. (You can dye noodles too!)
Cheerios, Chex, Rice Krispies. These are all great for pouring and playing with. Sometimes I’m a cool mom and add in Froot Loops. Those get eaten up quickly.
5. Dried beans
You don’t want your child eating a lot of these, but if one gets tasted it’s okay.
Plain white rice can be a winter wonderland. Colored Rainbow Rice adds a beautiful twist. (Learn how easy it is to dye rice: Rainbow Rice and More!
7. Tapioca Beads
Water beads are so much fun. Tapioca beads offer the same fun, but you can eat them too!
Edible Sensory Activities That Get Messy
Easy sensory bin fillers are awesome, but sometimes you want to dig a little deeper into the fun. I have found the sensory table activities toddlers love best are often the messiest. You can embrace the mess and still be taste safe.
1. Moon Sand
Mix 1/2 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of canola oil. (Food coloring is a fun addition.) Scale up as needed! (This is also called cloud dough.)
3. Chocolate Dirt
Mix 1 can of chocolate frosting and 1.25 cups flour. Delicious dirt to dig around in.
4. Ice Cream
Mix 1 can white frosting and 1.25 cups of flour, then add in any food coloring you would like. It’s just like the dirt, but the bright colors are perfect for playing ice cream shop!
5. Peanut Butter Play Doh
Mix 1 cup peanut butter with 2 cups of powdered sugar and 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of honey. I still remember when my mom made this for us and we got to decorate it with candy. That was a good day.
6. Edible Play Doh
I’ve done the peanut butter version and know it works well, but there are so many other edible play dohs out there! If you want to do this (and you should), check out this post: 15 Edible Play Doh Recipes.
Paint With Your Food: Edible Art Activities
Sensory play doesn’t have to be limited to just squishing things with your hands, you can create art at the same time!
My kids first finger painting experience was with taste safe materials because come on, they are going to taste that stuff. There are really easy items you can use to make art with your kids. True, you can’t save a lot of it forever (food products spoil after all), but the experience is worth it.
1. Baby Food
Have leftover jars? (Or perhaps your child just didn’t like it?) Let them paint with it!
My kids would smear ketchup and mustard everywhere if I let them. I don’t really blame them, that bright red and yellow are so appealing! Let them go for it with condiment painting.
3. Skittles Paint
If you put a couple of Skittles into a little bit of water you will make a watercolor-like paint! This is a fun one because you can mix the Skittles colors to create your own colors. (Want more color mixing science? Check this out: Color STEM for Kids)
4. Yogurt Paint
Yogurt on its own is great for painting. (Regular works better than Greek in my opinion.) It has a smooth texture that glides nicely over the paper. Use colored yogurt (this strawberry flavored, etc) or add food coloring to make your own!
5. Kool Aid Paint
This is a way to color your yogurt paints. Add about half a packet of Kool Aid to half a cup of yogurt to get your paint. (Or more if you want more vibrant colors.) Use unsweetened yogurt so you don’t add too much sugar (it makes the paint sticky). This paint has a great scent too, adding in an additional sensory element!
6. Pudding Paint
Yes, same idea as the yogurt paint. Using chocolate pudding is great for making construction scenes, creating backdrops for dinosaurs, or painting a garden.
Taste Safe Engineering Challenges
You can fit some serious STEM into your sensory play, and engineering challenges are a great way to encourage your children to problem solve.
1. Sugar Cube Engineering
Use sugar cubes to create bridges, towers, igloos, etc. Sugar cubes are tasty, obviously, but their structure makes them just like blocks! What can your child build?
2. Jelly Bean Geometry
Use jelly beans and toothpicks (I know, toothpicks aren’t taste safe, but we’ll go with it) to create shapes! Start with 2-D shapes like triangles and squares then move on to 3-D pyramids and cubes!
3. Marshmallow and Pretzel Building
Combine the cube engineering and geometry of the first two and use big marshmallows and pretzels. Boom, engineering challenge you can eat. Use small pretzel sticks to connect big marshmallows and see what you can make!
Put in the Extra Effort: Taste Safe STEM
While I love simple taste activities for toddlers and preschoolers, there is nothing wrong with going big sometimes.
Did you know the basic volcano recipe is actually taste safe? You don’t want to eat it, but it is technically safe to consume. Mix baking soda and vinegar to create a bubbly reaction. Or try simply putting some baking soda in a dish and handing over a squirt bottle of vinegar can bring about all sorts of fun!
(You can learn about our super easy to clean up volcano here, just don’t add the dish soap to make it taste safe.)
2. Make Plastic
You can make a plastic-like material using milk and vinegar. The combo doesn’t taste good, but if your kids sneak a taste it won’t hurt them. Learn how to make it here: Preschool Science Vol 2- How To Make Plastic.
3. Make Rock Candy
Rock candy is really just sugar crystals. Make a supersaturated solution of sugar, suspend a stick in it, and wait a week. You’ll get rock candy! Learn the details and all about crystals: Crystal Science for Kids.
4. Make a Jello Dino Dig
This is one of my favorites to do with my kids, but it does take some prep. You are going to make two layers of jello. Fortunately, the active prep time is pretty small, waiting for the jello to set is the longest part. Make the jello and put (washed of course) plastic dinosaurs in as it sets. Add as many layers as it takes to cover your dinos.
I added putting and crushed Oreos over top to make mud and dirt, then handed it over for my kids to have an archeological experience. Perfect for dinosaur themed birthday parties. Get the details: Dinosaur Dig: A Sensory Archeological Experience.
5. Jelly Bean Slime
This is a super cool slime, but it does take a little longer to make than traditional slime. Put a couple of jelly beans in a bowl with a tablespoon of water. Microwave it to soften the beans then mash the heck out of them until you have a smooth mixture. (Watch them, they can burn!)
Then add cornstarch spoonful by spoonful until you have a slime texture you like! Add in some whole jelly beans for fun too.
Edible Sensory Activities
I think it’s easy to just think about touch when we think of sensory activities. But there are so many more options out there. Kids need to engage all their senses, and getting to taste things can add a little unexpected fun to the play.
Safety first, of course. Make sure your child can handle any foods you play with in terms of texture, size, and food intolerances. But then let them taste, let them nibble. They are learning a lot.
Here are more fun activities to try!