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Food Play in Early Years – The Debate

April 28, 2023
2 minute read

Food play is a popular activity in early years settings that involves letting children explore and play with food. While it can be a fun and engaging way for children to explore different textures, tastes, and smells, it also comes with its fair share of pros and cons. In this blog post, we'll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of food play, including its impact on food waste and the cost of living.

Pros of food play in early years:

  1. Sensory exploration: Food play provides children with an opportunity to explore different textures, smells, and tastes, which can help them develop their sensory skills.
  • Creativity and imagination: Children can use food items to create imaginative play scenarios, which can help develop their creativity and imagination.
  • Social skills: Playing with food can encourage social interaction and collaboration among children, which can help them develop important social skills. Children with food phobias may be encouraged to interact with food in this playful way.
  • Nutrition education: Through food play, children can learn about different foods and their nutritional value, which can help them develop healthy eating habits. This also provides opportunity to discuss dental hygiene

Cons of food play in early years:

  1. Food waste: Food play can lead to a significant amount of food waste, as children may not consume the food items they play with. This can be a concern for families and early years settings, especially given the rising cost of food and current cost of living crisis
  • Mess: Food play can be a messy activity, which can create extra work for early years practitioners and increase work load in terms of risk assessment and monitoring health and safety
  • Allergies and dietary requirements: Food play may not be suitable for children with allergies or specific dietary requirements, which can exclude them from participating in the activity.

While food play has many benefits for children's development, it's important to consider the potential drawbacks, such as food waste and cost of living. To mitigate these concerns, early years practitioners can consider using non-food items for sensory exploration and imaginative play, or using food items that can be consumed after the activity., such as baking or cooking. Additionally, early years settings can work with families to ensure that food play activities are inclusive and suitable for all children.

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