Preschoolers and toddlers seek sensory activities because it’s a developmentally appropriate way for their brains to learn and take in information. Try adding this fruit and veggie sensory bin to your food and nutrition activities.
Food and Nutrition Activities: Sensory Bin Ideas
We all know how picky toddlers and preschoolers can be when it comes to eating. You’ve been through that phase too, right? Well believe it or not, there are ways to interest your kids in more than just mac and cheese or chicken nuggets. That’s what I love the most about teaching a food and nutrition theme in preschool; using play fruits and vegetables may even encourage little ones to try something they would otherwise avoid!
Allowing children to have a say over what goes on their plate–even their pretend plate–will increase the odds of them having positive interactions with food. The key is building up some excitement for new foods so that when you set them down in front of something new, chances are they’ll at least be willing to try a bite.
This food and nutrition sensory bin is an easy-going, low-key way to introduce picky eaters to new fruits and veggies. This is a sensory bin I always add to my food and nutrition activities.
FAQ About Teaching Food and Nutrition Activities in Preschool
The best way to teach preschoolers about healthy eating is by example and exposure. Children are much more likely to try a new food if they see a trusted adult eating and enjoying it first. They’re also more likely to try a new food if they’ve been exposed to it multiple times and in various ways. You can try things like reading books about healthy foods, engaging in food and nutrition activities for preschoolers, and of course serving healthy foods at snack and meal times.
A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. It protects you against many chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Eating a variety of foods will make sure that your body has all the nutrients it needs to stay fit!
It’s important to understand that it’s normal for toddlers and preschoolers to be picky eaters. But that doesn’t make mealtime with a picky eater any less frustrating. When preparing meals for preschoolers and toddlers, be sure to offer at least one thing you know they will eat, and pair that food with a less familiar or less liked food. That way, if your preschooler chooses not to try the new food, they can still have something they like. Don’t force a child into trying a new food, either. Instead, model eating that food. Talk about what it tastes and feels like, and share how much you enjoy eating it yourself.
Food and Nutrition Activities Using a Sensory Bin
Teaching food and nutrition activities in preschool is an easy way to introduce your preschooler to different foods while also teaching about healthy eating. Be sure to read all the ways to use this fruit and veggie sensory bin, and grab your free printable fruit and veggie cards at the end of this post.
For this sensory bin, I used small fruit and vegetable counters. If you don’t have any you can also use regular play food. You just won’t be able to fit as many into the sensory bin.
These Are Our Favorite Fruit and Vegetable Counters and Toys
The vegetable counters I used in this sensory bin are no longer available, but here are some other counters and toys I have on hand for my food and nutrition preschool theme.
Your little ones can help you do this!
Grab your plastic bin or your sensory table and fill it with the dyed rice or whatever filling you choose to use (colored rice, sprinkles, beans etc.). Place your fruits and vegetables counters or food toys in the bin. Finally, add the fruit and veggie cards around the perimeter of the bin.
I grabbed the pictured fruit and vegetable cards for free from a Montessori site, but they’re now a paid product. So I’ve made my own cards to offer for free at the end of this post, but they do look a little different from those pictured.
How to Use This Sensory Bin in Your Food and Nutrition Activities
If you’re doing a healthy eating unit in preschool, a food and nutrition sensory bin is a playful and non-forceful way to get young children interested in trying new foods. While they won’t literally be tasting anything in the sensory bin, simple exposure to healthy foods–even in a play setting–will help your little one have a positive experience with food.
Introduce the Fruit and Veggie Sensory Bin
When you first offer a colorful food and nutrition themed sensory bin like this one, your preschoolers are going to want to jump in hands-first and mix everything up! That’s the fun of a sensory bin, right?
They’ll want to listen to the rice scattering about the bin as they feel it running through their fingers. They’ll want to see if the fruit and veggie counters bounce when they drop them. They’ll look at the cards in the bin, or completely disregard them.
These are all expected behaviors and completely normal.
Offer Colored Construction Paper for Color Sorting
After your preschoolers have had a chance to explore the bin on their own, you can try this activity. Scoop up the fruit or vegetable and pair it with the matching color of construction paper. I actually just grabbed some foam pieces from the craft closet and watched the preschoolers automatically start sorting without me saying a thing to them! Funny how kids are natural-born mathematicians!
This is great for teaching colors to both toddlers and preschoolers. While your preschooler or toddler is sorting the colored fruit and veggies onto the construction paper, you can say things like:
You have a strawberry. What color is a strawberry? I like the color red. Where will you put your strawberry? Do you see other items that are also red?
You might Also Like these Food and Nutrition Printables
Encourage healthy eating habits with these brilliant preschool printables!
They’re a fresh approach for teaching your young learners all about good nutrition. They include important learning concepts within a healthy eating theme, like food groups, the importance of a well-balanced diet, and the difference between all-the-time food and sometimes (junk) foods. Get all your printable preschool centers here:
Food and Nutrition Emergent Readers
Food and Nutrition Printable Preschool Centers
Food and Nutrition Activity Pack
Use the Printable Cards to Make Matches
The second activity will involve the printable fruit and veggie cards. You can challenge your toddlers or preschoolers to make matches. For example, lay out the printable banana card and invite your preschoolers to search the bin for all the matching banana counters.
My son was delighted to discover he could precariously dangle the banana counters off the scoop I offered with the bin. The scoop is just a formula scoop, by the way. It’s nothing special except that formula scoops are just the perfect size for scooping and pouring rice fillers in sensory bins.
How to Engage Children at a Sensory Bin
While I like to add some pieces to a sensory bin that offer a little learning direction, much of what we accomplish during sensory play is child-led.
Here are some things to think about as you observe sensory play:
- How is the child handling the sensory materials?
- Is the child using fine motor muscles while engaged in sensory play? (Is the child using fingertips versus hold fist?)
- Does the child find sensory play agreeable?
- Does the child explore all the materials offered, or does the child gravitate to one thing in the bin?
- Does the child talk during sensory play?
- How can you build conversation with the child during sensory play?
More Ways to Use the Free Printable Fruit and Veggie Cards
Adding these fruit and veggie cards to your sensory bin will give your preschoolers and toddlers one more point of contact in developing healthy eating habits. But that’s not all you can do with these cards! Try these other activities using the free fruit and veggie cards.
- Matching Fruits and Vegetables – Print out two copies and invite your preschooler to make matches while the cards are face-up on the table.
- Describing Fruits and Vegetables – Have your preschooler select a card and describe the food. If your preschooler struggles for details, ask prompting questions.
- Fruit and Vegetable Riddles – Lay out the matching cards for everyone to see. Secretly select a fruit or vegetable and then give clues about it for your preschooler to guess.
- Fruit and Vegetable Sorting – Teach your preschooler which foods are fruits and which are vegetables and then sort the cards accordingly.
- Play Concentration – Print two copies of these cards and play a traditional game of Concentration or Memory.
- Play Go Fish – Print two copies of these cards and play a game of Go Fish.
Grab Your Free Fruit and Veggie Cards Here
Think you can use these cards while doing a healthy eating theme in your classroom? Grab your own copy by filling out the form below, and then don’t forget to try out all the extra ways to use these cards, too!
- dyed rice filler
- fruit and vegetable counters
- free printable fruit and veggie nomenclature cards
- Download the free printable included in the post.
- Print on heavy card stock.
- Laminate for added durability (optional).
- Cut apart the cards.
ACTIVITIES USING FREE FRUIT AND VEGGIE CARDS
- Matching Fruits and Vegetables - Print out two copies and invite your preschooler to make matches while the cards are face-up on the table.
- Describing Fruits and Vegetables - Have your preschooler select a card and describe the food. If your preschooler struggles for details, ask prompting questions.
- Fruit and Vegetable Riddles - Lay out the matching cards for everyone to see. Secretly select a fruit or vegetable and then give clues about it for your preschooler to guess.
- Fruit and Vegetable Sorting - Teach your preschooler which foods are fruits and which are vegetables and then sort the cards accordingly.
- Play Concentration - Print two copies of these cards and play a traditional game of Concentration or Memory.
- Play Go Fish - Print two copies of these cards and play a game of Go Fish.
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I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.