Have a child who’s hesitant to try winter squash? Or maybe you just want to find a fun and educational way to engage them around this unique type of food? You have definitely come to the right place! Our STEAM activities and sensory activities are a great way to introduce your kids to squash.
At Kid Food Explorers, we’re all about making food fun and inviting kids to explore new foods in pressure-free ways. Our mission is to get kids excited about trying new things, and not feel like they’re being forced to eat foods they might not be comfortable with yet.
STEAM and sensory activities are a great way to do this because they’re educational, fun, and super easy to do at home, so everyone can relax and have a good time.
As a pediatric dietitian, I think people assume that I don’t have food battles at home. But I definitely do! My girls were a little hesitant to try spaghetti squash at first. I think they were put off by the name and the way it looked. When you think about it, spaghetti squash does look a little weird and have a very unique consistency, so I get it. But I was able to get them to try it by inviting them to explore it in ways that interested them and piqued their curiosity. Here are some ideas that you can try too!
What exactly are STEAM activities and sensory activities?
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Basically, any activity that incorporates one or more of these disciplines can be considered a STEAM activity. STEAM activities help kids develop a variety of skills, including problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. So in addition to helping them get comfortable around new foods, you teaching them vital life skills. As a mom, I’ll always take those double wins.
Sensory activities are activities that involve exploring food with one or more of your five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. We find that when kids are encouraged to explore new foods through their senses, it fosters their natural curiosity and they’re more likely to be open to trying them.
There are tons of great sensory and STEAM activities out there that you can do with your kids to help them learn about winter squash – and have a blast doing it! Here are just a few of our favorites:
Use sorting, graphing, and weighing activities to introduce your kids to squash
An early math STEAM activity with winter squash is exploring basic sequencing and putting objects in order from shortest to tallest or tallest to shortest. This is a great activity for kids who are visual learners. I like to use this concept as a simple food exposure whether you are using asparagus or green beans that appear more unified in size or a bigger challenge with foods of varying shapes and lengths! This activity is especially great for hands-on kinesthetic-dominant learner (which has always be me so that’s the way I like to teach! 🙌).
Teaching little people about the basic concept of length is the first step towards understanding a scale or basic unit of standard measurement such as a ruler. This activity can be completed with any different sized food items or objects around the house.
Simple comparisons can progress into a non-standard unit of measure and create an introduction that kids can apply to other scales of measurement. For example, the next step may be measuring each squash by the number of blocks high and then against a ruler with centimeters, inches, and feet.
Another great STEAM activity is exploring the density of different types of winter squash. A basic kitchen scale offers the opportunity to experiment with how heavy or how light different foods can be, then comparing them based on their weight. So many opportunities to combine fun food exposure and building math skills.
Make a pumpkin bird feed together to recycle your old jack o’ lantern
This is a great activity for kids who are interested in nature and the outdoors. It’s also a great way to use up that pumpkin you carved for Halloween and keep it out of the landfill. We’ve got more ideas for recycling your pumpkins here.
To make a pumpkin bird feeder, you’ll need 2 long sticks, twine, a bowl for discarded pumpkin, a scoop, a knife, a puncture tool, a sharpie, and a large bolt with a nut.
To transform your jack-lantern into a birdfeeder, here are the steps:
- Draw 4 circles the width of your sticks around the bottom of the pumpkin directly across from each other.
- Then draw 3 semi-circle openings around the sides of the pumpkin that aren’t already carved – be sure that you place the semi-circles high enough so the bird seed will not fall out.
- Using your knife, help your kids cut out the circles and semi-circles. Then use your puncture tool at the base of the pumpkin to make a hole. Place the bolt through the base of the pumpkin and lock it with the nut.
- Next, thread your sticks through the holes in the pumpkin.
- Finally, take two long pieces of twine, tie them together around the bolt, then fasten the twine to the sticks, and fill the jack-O-lantern with bird seed – now your pumpkin bird feeder is ready to hang.
Trace different types of squash with crayons and paper
Got a kiddo who loves to draw and color?
Try this simple food play activity with winter squash! Grab a winter squash and some paper, then have your kiddo trace the outline. Tracing is an important pre-writing skill and builds the foundation for drawing and writing letters. It also supports fine motor skills, visual-spatial skills, and it’s a fun, pressure-free food exposure. After your kiddo has traced the winter squash, encourage them to color it in however they like.
This is a great activity for kids who are visual learners and those who need a little bit more of a challenge when it comes to food exposure.
Try a pumpkin seed sort for a fun sensory activity
Try this easy sensory play activity with pumpkin seeds! Teach your kiddo how to separate the seeds from squash goo for sensory engagement and texture exploration.
Not only does this activity help with building fine motor skills, it’s also a form of sensory engagement, teaches active listening for a two-part task, and encourages language building as you work together. Plus, now you have delicious seeds to roast and eat!
Check out our recipe for how to roast perfectly crispy pumpkin seeds every single time.
STEAM activities and other hands-on food activities can go a long way in helping kids embrace new foods, gain confidence, and build body autonomy. But beyond that they help build memorable food experiences that can lead to a more positive relationship with food.
Did you try one of these activities? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!