Occupational Therapy

Food Exploration for Children

Yummy sensory opportunities for children to explore the tastes and textures of food.

Exploring foods provides young children myriad opportunities to get messy and experience delicious and colorful sensory play! Paige, one of our deeply trained pediatric occupational therapists, shares some of her favorite summer food sensory activities for you to try at home with your kiddos.

Containers of food for “musical containers“.

To target the auditory, olfactory, visual, and tactile systems play a game called, musical containers.” Fill various size containers with various foods with unique sensory attributes. Cereal or pretzels will make lots of noise when the container is shaken.  Orange slices will tantalize the olfactory system. M&M’s or Skittles will literally be eye candy as a child’s visual system is delighted by all the bright colors.

sensory activities with foodAfter you have filled various containers, pass them around the table or back and forth, playing music your child enjoys. Stop the music, then open the containers to look, smell, and touch! The benefits of this activity include developing your child’s impulse control (waiting until the music stops to open the containers and to stop passing when the music is paused). Your child’s auditory system is challenged by having to focus on listening to know when the music has stopped.  They will learn to filter out distractions in his/her environment to focus on the activity. The different food items give your child a chance to explore his or her sensory systems, talk about those systems, and label how he feels about each of the sensory experiences. All processes which are crucial for development.


sensory activities with foodChanging the shape of food for fun messy play.

This next activity suggestion helps to develop your child’s motor skills and encourages messy tactile play. Gather various food in the house in which the form of the food can be changed. For example, you can chop up zucchini, you can slice apples, you can peel an orange, you can sift your hands through flour; you can place raspberries on each of your fingers. By facilitating your child’s exploration of food, he or she is gaining more comfort, which in turn helps children who are picky eaters due to sensory challenges and/or tactile sensitivity. By utilizing various tools/body parts to alter the form of the food (fingers, knife, fork, food hammer etc.), you are facilitating your child’s development of his/her fine motor skills, and hand dexterity – skills necessary to develop age appropriate self-care skills and be successful in the classroom setting as well!

Categorizing food for academic based learning

The following food activity is academic based and helps your child learn. It is recommended you choose a variety of food items that can then be categorized. Some categories you can choose include sorting by color, shape, size, attributes.

sensory activities with food

For example, peaches, apples, and bananas are all fruit. Tomatoes, apples, ketchup, and pasta sauce are all red. You can also facilitate your child’s vocabulary development by having him or her practice describing flavors during mealtimes/snack time. For example, this piece of broccoli is crunchy; this apple is sweet; this sweet potato is mushy and sweet.

summer sensory activities with foodTake a field trip and check out your local farmers market

When your child is involved in picking out the food he or she wants to try, he or she may be more excited about trying the food, especially if your child is a picky eater. Children will enjoy meeting the farmers and learning about where the food they eat comes from.


Resources for parents:

“The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear” – the playful account of two animal’s interactions surrounding their strong desire to eat delicious strawberries.

“It is Not About the Broccoli – Three habits to teach your kids for a lifetime of healthy eating.”


Social Learning Prepares Children for First and Second Grade

Your kindergartner or first grader works hard at school. Not only are there academic expectations, but your child needs  to self-regulate in order to manage the various social expectations. Whether following planned group activities, transitioning from one activity to another, using spoken language to share ideas, taking turns, listening when others speak, or managing big feelings and big energy, social brain building is imperative for success.

Your child wants to belong, feel connected, solve problems, share ideas and work within a group, but it doesn’t always happen naturally. Often a child needs the “just-right” support for their individual make up, to be able to build the foundational skills of self-regulation and flexible thinking, then be able to put them into practice within a group environment.

Children who struggle with self-regulation and flexible thinking in kindergarten or first grade often enter the next grade level with anxiety or struggles with:

  • Making transitions
  • Managing big feelings and energy levels
  • Talking out of turn or grabbing
  • Negotiating and compromising
  • “Plugging in” to group plans and processes


Could your child use a boost in their Social Brain Building this summer?

social learning camp - social brain building

Child Success Center’s social learning specialist, Patty Ramsey, LMFT, has designed a 2-week summer enrichment camp that will help campers gain the social skills and confidence they need for successful relationships in first or second grade.

With a plan designed and implemented by CSC’s skilled and compassionate occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists, this summertime fun adventure will allow children to make use of their boundless imaginations and the power of play. As a team, they’ll “create” their “campsite” and problem solve camp themed scenarios, like what they would need to pack for a camping adventure, how they’d get there, what they would do once they got there, what they would take to eat and what they would see.


Campers will use their imagination to guide them on their journey –

destination unknown – of fun, adventure and team building!


Are there resources available for parent support of social brain building at home?

Social Brain Building Summer Camp will provide visuals, activities, and education on key ways for parents to help support a child’s ongoing social learning. Additionally, one parent education session,  presented by Patty Ramsey, will be available for more in-depth supports.


Social Brain Building Summer Camp for Social Learning


Learn more about Social Brain Building Summer Camp

Year round Social Brain Building and Friendship Club at CSC


post updated January 28, 2020

What Your Child May Experience in an Occupational Therapy Session

An occupational therapy session is work for a child’s brain, disguised as play.

A child’s “occupations” include everything he or she does throughout the day – the “jobs of childhood” – the most important jobs being playing, socializing, and learning. The purpose of pediatric occupational therapy is to help a child become comfortable, independent, and proficient in these areas of their lives.

Occupational therapy session at Child Success CenterOccupational therapy addresses a variety of areas of deficits including fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social emotional skills and sensory integration. Initial therapy sessions help the therapist to understand the unique wiring of the individual child’s brain and nervous system. The therapist will consult with the child’s parents to ascertain what home and school life are like for the child, and what they have observed in their child’s development. This evaluation and analysis process will continue across subsequent sessions as the child’s nervous system develops.

Each occupational therapy session is tailored to meet the child’s specific needs, facilitated in a warm and comfortable environment, and created to reflect the child’s interests.

Sensory processing, or organizing, is how a child learns and experiences the world around him. “Just right” sensory experiences during the therapy session will help the child with emotional regulation, self-regulation and social engagement. Intact sensory integration provides the fundamental building blocks for attention, emotional development, motor skills development and higher-level academics and social skills.

An occupational therapy session, utilizing a sensory integration treatment approach, will often target the social-emotional system, employing the Zones of Regulation, Floortime and Social Thinking® (Attributed to Michelle Garcia Winner as creator of the Social Thinking Methodology) programs. Covered would be social skills concepts such as staying with the group, taking turns, collaborative play, and interacting with peers and adults, in order for children to be successful in relationships and group environments.

occupational therapy session at Child Success Center Santa MonicaOccupational therapy may work on fine motor skills such as grasp and in-hand manipulation, necessary for drawing, coloring, folding and cutting. Visual motor integration, the ability to use the visual system and the fine or gross motor systems together, and essential to activities such as handwriting, ball play and sports, may be addressed.

An OT session might include work on gross motor skills that are involved in playing sports that require bilateral coordination, ball skills, strength, coordination and balance. The therapist will provide easy and creative activities and exercises to help increase upper body and core strength necessary for postural stability, balance, coordination, gross and fine motor control and will often provide a home-based program for follow through.

Often, children who struggle with Sensory Integration and are referred to Occupational Therapy have challenges with Executive Function Skills, necessary for learning and development. In order for a child to plan and organize what they need to do throughout the day, such as getting homework done, they need to be able to focus attention, filter distractions, remember and perform multi-step directions.

Occupational therapy is work for a child’s brain, disguised as play. All children engaged in occupational therapy experience a new level of confidence and self-esteem that comes with learning a new skill or overcoming a challenge. The smile on their face will say it all.

This program, including its teacher or leader, is not affiliated with, nor has it been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by Michelle Garcia Winner and Think Social Publishing, Inc.

Child Success Center
2023 S. Westgate Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Call 310-899-9597 to access our “warm” line.
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