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Boy sensory smell carrot

Sensory Experience

Engaging with veg is one of the best possible ways for kids to develop a healthy relationship with them. Physically engaging through their senses and exploring how a veg smells, sounds, feels and looks can make it more likely they want to know how it tastes, too. Find out how you can try this simply at home.

Engaging through senses

If your child is struggling with trying new veg, exploring how that veg feels, looks, smells and sounds before tasting can make the process easier for everyone.

TastEd (short for Taste Education) is about encouraging children to use all five senses to explore food in a fun and joyful way.

Kim SMITH Msc.

Using sensory experiences at home is a simple way to take baby steps to encourage kids when trying a new or previously disliked vegetable in a low-pressure environment, making it more likely they will engage with it positively. Our friends at TastEd are experts at making this experience fun and taking away any pressure, so we have got TastEd’s Kim Smith guide to sensory experiences for you…

How will it help?

It breeds familiarity:  Exploring a veg through your senses brings familiarity as they touch, smell and engage with the chosen vegetable. That veg is now not something unknown and potentially threatening, but something they can describe and have already engaged with.

It leads to positive conversations: Instead of an automatic “it’s gross”, encouraging descriptive and imaginative language around a sensory experience of a vegetable gives a child something positive to say about it, and gives them an encouraging association.

It helps in understanding preferences: Understanding what exactly about a veg your child likes or dislikes is key to bringing in new veg. Do they recoil at bitter-tasting veg or do they love sour flavours? Do they enjoy a good crunch or are they happiest when veg is cold but soft? The language they use will give you hints that can help you with what veg to try next.

It takes away the pressure: The first rule of sensory education is that you start by letting a child know two things: “You don’t have to try. And you don’t have to like.” Once they know that they have a choice about whether to actually put the veg in their mouths or not, or that other ways of “trying” are acceptable, such as sniffing or licking a veg, they are actually more likely to give it a go at the end of a session. And if not this time, they may feel more like it next time!

It is playful: When a child is playing and having fun, they are more receptive to requests and are more likely to form positive associations. If they are having fun coming up with an over-the-top description for how a carrot looks, encourage them and laugh with them, and they will be more relaxed, feeling better about the suggestion of trying the veg later.

getting started

Remember the golden rules of TastEd: “You don’t have to try. And you don’t have to like.” Make sure to say this at the start of every session, to help your child relax and be more receptive. And remind your child that trying doesn’t have to necessarily mean eating it, either. It could mean sniffing or licking a veg, or exploring it with their other senses instead. And if they try and they don’t like it? No problem! Just ask them to describe why they don’t like it – was it too crunchy or soft? Was it too loud? Was it too hot? Was it too bitter? Then suggest that next time you try it a different way or try a veg that’s more in line with their preferences.

Focus on one sense at a time: Perhaps you found a great deal on carrots this week and want to explore it with your kids, so you will focus on hearing, giving them the carrot raw, lightly cooked and cooked until very soft, and ask them which one sounds the loudest when they either bite it or snap it with their hands. Next time, when you find yourself with a spare yellow pepper, ask them what they think it looks like. Upside down held by the stalk, perhaps it’s like a tiny umbrella. Held to the side, it might be an alien’s freeze ray. Encourage them to use their imagination and see what comes of it!

Always have an opportunity for tasting: When they have had their fun exploring a veg with one of their senses, offer a chance to try it. They could try it just as is, or prepped a couple of different ways (raw, roasted, fried, steamed, etc) so they can see how different it can taste. Remind them that they don’t have to try it, and they don’t have to like it, and make sure you try it, too!

Plenty of praise: Whether it’s for their imaginative comparisons, using descriptive language rather than “it’s gross” or for ‘trying’ by sniffing, licking, biting or otherwise exploring the veg, make sure to praise them for it.

Remember to take part too, this is a together activity – explore the vegetables together, share your own preferences and show you’ll give the ones you don’t like a go.

give it a go

Here are some simple TastEd sensory experiences you can try at home with your kids.
These should only take 10-15 minutes each and should be full of fun and praise.

For more TastEd activities go to






‘TastEd (short for Taste Education) is a new way to encourage children to use all five senses to explore food in a fun and joyful way. More than a thousand schools and nurseries are already doing TastEd sessions but you can also do it at home with your own child’.

Ruth’s sensory guide

Sensory expert Ruth Platt one of the creators of TastEd shares her tips for engaging your child with each of these veg. Click the veg to watch her video.

DO you have a question you’d like one of our experts to help you with?
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