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This week ask your child to "help" you cut up fruits, veggies, bread, cheese, or cold cuts (basically, anything soft and safe to touch raw or cooked!) in the kitchen.
Make sure you get them a toddler-safe knife that actually cuts (we have these and my son LOVES them and is so enthusiastic about using them and they actually cut pretty well!).
This is also a nice set because it comes with a cutting board, but we specifically decided we didn't want our son to have his "own" cutting board because he would have a fit if he saw someone else using it, or if it was in the dishwasher and we try to give him another one. We're so mean, I know.
YOU know your child best, so pick the set that's right for them.
Other safety tips
And ALWAYS ALWAYS supervise your children when they are using a knife. Watch their little fingers carefully and teach them how to properly use a knife. And make sure that if they do put the foods in their mouth, that it's a safe size piece for them and they are able to chew it properly (especially with younger toddlers).
Why helping in the kitchen is a great sensory activity
Getting your kids to help you cut up food is a GREAT way to get them to become comfortable with touching foods they typically don't want to eat or even touch.
Think about it, if a child is being forced to try a food they don't like during dinner, they are immediately going to have a negative attitude towards it. Sometimes kids are even intimidated by and scared of foods they don't like. But asking them to HELP you is a great low-pressure way to interact with those same foods and to see that the foods are actually not that scary, and not that awful.
After seeing the food in a non-threatening environment, your child might even be willing to try eating it next time! Of course, this might not happen overnight, but consistent exposure to foods through playing and helping in the kitchen works to get kids to be more open minded about trying new foods or foods that they think they don't like.
What kinds of foods to use
As I mentioned, any food that is safe to touch and is not too hard to cut is fair game. So don't give your child raw chicken, but cooked chicken, and chicken nuggets are fine.
A few ideas and tips for what kinds of foods to give your child to cut:
- You can give your child the foods that you are already cutting up for dinner, so you don't have to do any extra prep for this activity
- You can strategically select foods that you know your child doesn't eat, just to get them to interact with the foods. If you do this, you might also want to add a food that they do like, so they don't feel intimidated by only seeing the foods that they don't like
- You can ask your child to help you prepare their snack - maybe they will eat fresh fruits and veggies as their snack!
- Start with easy-to-cut fruits and veggies, such as ripe pears, melons with their rinds already cut off, watermelons, or cucumbers
- Avoid carrots, parsnips, and other hard-to-cut foods so that your child's knife doesn't slip and so they don't get frustrated