Chapter 3 – Play as a sensorial food experience.

How it is possible to arouse interest in child for new foods? Through the game.

As recognized in the art. 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Infancy, the play is a right of child: “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity”.

With the game children express themselves, they tell, they interpret and they combine in creative way the individual and social experiences. Child that plays gets himself occasions of growth, because the same game encourages affective maturation, active and it develops partner-cognitive skills (ability of decentralization, divergent thought, reflexive ability, development of the social language.). Above all, and in more general terms, it represents for child a meaningful and deep existential experience, that entirely involves him giving comfort and the sense of his being to the world.

So, the game is game when it is finalized to himself, free.

As we have previously seen, child up to the seven years is internally a sculptor: child has need of images that arouses in him impressions. In the game, as in whatever activity or object of the man, child doesn't look for the target, the profit but what in it he lives. If you try to put of forehead to a child a doll done of rags and a beautiful plastic all defined in her features doll, you will see that child will prefer the doll of rags because to this he can give his form, on this he can elaborates his idea of doll.

This example allows to realize the function that the game should have in the life of a child, or to draw from the images the sense of the things (symbolic value of the leisure activity). He behaves like an artist: the images become in him shaping strength.

Therefore, all of that is intellectual, that doesn't allow the child to create, to make alive and felt anything through the imagination, it is injurious to the child evolution: this should make to reflect on the intrusive role of the technological games that leaves little space to the imagination and the imagination more and more, well present instead in simple games as hide-and-seek, blind fly and so on.

So, considering philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists and pedagogics theories on the role of the game in the process of evolution from the infancy to the adult age, it can be ascertained as in the last years that common mentality that viewed the leisure experience only as synonym of comfort / recreation has been given up, while it is being tried to show its phenomenal wealth and its multiplicity of expressions and articulations.

The game is educational for his nature end statute: in fact, through of it human learns to know the world, to experiment the value of the rules, to be with the others, to manage his/her own emotions, to discover new runs of autonomy and to experiment for attempts and errors the convictions on the things and on the others. It’s the background where the identity of child can develop and then consolidate. Besides, the game is privileged field of observation because, for his spontaneity, it constitutes a valid context in which it is possible to observe launchings and different individual styles, as well as connected peculiarity to every child. Then, it proves to be a valued ally for the adult, parent or teacher, to inflict a more deepened knowledge of the child and to direct his more effectively educational-didactics and therapeutics action.

Now, how is possible to made leisure teaching?

Departing from the systematic observation of the single children and the daily life, those activities are individualized playful that is believed to promote the growth of cognitive, affective, social skills. Such activities are technically divided in:

Structured game (game): activity thanks to which the educator, prompts directly child and observes the experience that he is doing in the individual dimension, in social spaces and in a circumscribed context.

Free game (play): activity characterized by the free child’s choice that has a symbolic value because child lives more times both more difficult experiences for him and those more reassuring, through the game. In this type of game, the educator develops the role of "actor", every time that has involved in the game of his child.

Focusing on the game structured in preschool (0 - 6 years) age, nowadays the space is always great given to the artistic activities and manuals to feed the enthusiasm of the imagination, the curiosity, the creativeness, the communication of yourself and the world that we perceive: this happens although still artistic activities are not planned in the curricula for the first infancy and in that of the teacher training of many European countries (eg. Italy, France etc.).

Today we know that the perceptions come from the sensory input, present already in the intrauterine (then in a precocious phase of our development) life they are the essential step to the development of the nervous system, of the emotions and of the conscience. Day after day, the impressions that we incessantly receive through the senses, from the environment and from the culture in which we are steeped, they define connections in our brain and in our memory, molding her.

So, the perceptions firstly are a personal matter.

How much the experiences and the stimuli are rich and diversified anymore, so much great it seems to be the possibility to develop a harmonious personality, able to orient with equilibrium in the complex world of the social relationships and the consumption. Besides differences and multiplicity of stimuli contribute to preserve the individual differences as collective patrimony.

The food is a sensorial experience beginning from the first months of life with the nursing, involving all five senses and for this it often introduced in educational paths that contemplate to the discovery of yourself and the world.

Here following they specifically intend some tied up activities to the food to encourage in child:

  • the discovery, knowledge and use of the five senses
  • the acquisition of perceptive skills
  • the acquisition of the capacity to express feelings and emotions
  • the creativeness development
  • the perception of the scholastic environment as a family environment.

However, it is to remind that up to the 7-8 years children have a vision of the subjective, intuitive and global reality. So, they labor to separate the different sensorial area the one from the other, to face the trials in analytical way and to rationally examine the others point of view. In this phase, it is preferable therefore to make lever on the suggestions that spring from the occasions of the daily life. The family kitchen and school, the snack with friends, the visit in farm, in the garden or in the wood, the sequence of the seasons, represents solicitations to learn to distinguish the senses the one from the other and to intuitively associate them to the reality enriching it of imaginary and emotional aspects, that contribute in conclusive way to form the sensorial memory of kids defining tastes and habits.

At the end, they are described some examples of playful didactic activities:

  • The basket of treasures: it is a game of sensorial exploration that offers the opportunity to learn to discover the relationships to child, the differences / equalities between objects and materials. They are set food in a closed box or in a non-transparent pouch, as for instance an apple, a banana, walnut-trees etc., and child touching them must guess what they are.
  • Manipulation: we propose to our children make the dough. This practical test allows to observe how the consistence of dough change from a phase to the other of the workmanship. You can continue to prepare egg-pasta, bread, tortillas, short pastry. If the addition of butter or oil is planned, you try to verify what it happens with and without the addition of the fat. Does something change? What? It is important to come up to the realization of the ended product and to share the taste.
  • Look and not touch: you locate children in front of three or more foods and you invite them to observe their aspect, that is the form, the tones of color etc. Then you propose them to realize a paper of identity of the observed foods, drawing them in a sheet and trying together to describe the most interesting characteristics.
  • The Sonorous Mime: you organize a competition of sounds and noises food imitation. Who is the best to imitate the noise of a French fry? And the noise of a coffeepot while coffee is climbing?
  • The blindman’s bluff of the scents: you put a small quantity of the every select fragrant ingredients in two of the boxes. Leave you one of it open and you cover the second with a square of cloth, opportunely fixed with the help of an elastic or of the string. You mark the closed box with one it initials of recognition written on a label. Before beginning, you explain well whether to perceive to the best the smells needs to inhale more times to brief intervals. You introduce, one to the time, every of the aromatic grass, inviting each to observe it and to sniff it. Which grass does it have the prickliest odor? Which is it more delicate? To this point you proceed to the test of recognition to the blind one.
  • Olfactory walk: you develop a walk in the country or in the city with children making him to pay attention to smells that feel, asking him what according to them is the source of the scent and to describe it to you.
  • Myths and Legends: tell the children myths or legends where food is the element that from place to the narrative interlacement, as for instance the myth of the gold apple or the myth of the knob of the Esperidis, to arouse curiosity in children and to at the same time feed their imagination.
  • Transfers: you prepare containers of different dimensions on a table and different consistence’s food, liquids and solid, granular and floury etc., and you get child to decant from a container to the other.
  • Food decorations: often on the occasion of the national festivities to spruce up the place, decorations are realized using dried fruit or vegetables, as for instance making to insert some nails of carnation in the citrus fruit as oranges or mandarins, to get some happy and aromatic decorations to support to the center of the table or on an inside windowsill.
  • Garden preparing: If you had an available external space, you turn it to garden and during the whole scholastic year, you accompany children in the different seasonal jobs as the preparation of the ground, the seeding, the elimination of the weeds, the harvest. And you do all this accompanying the practical activity with singing nursery rhyme in group and letting pay attention all the living beings that our garden lives.
  • Painting: to develop above all the sight and the sense of smell, paintings can be realized on cardboards, sheets, plotted using colors realized with extracts of vegetable e/o it yields. You apparently submit to the attention of children boxes which contains tempers, but of which, already by the smell and by the unusual consistence, their vegetable nature is recognizable.
  • Collage: using the peels of the fruit or the vegetable, children can glue them on a sheet / cardboard and then paint them, so creating some original collage.
  • Music with cookware: to develop the sense of the hearing and the rhythm, you offer the dish to the children as orchestrate musical and you accompany their metallic sound with onomatopoeic compositions about food.
  • Water test: children will experiment the various ways to transform the water with the addition of salt, sugar, juice of lemon, of orange, soluble tisane and with their relative taste.
  • Objects Realization with Foods: you propose to child spin of cloth or string together with varied shapes of pasta and candies: then child can create fanciful necklaces or bracelets.
  • Tasting of dishes: you make to taste small portions of the whole disposition foods. You invite to lend ear to the sonorities, generally different, that are freed during the first bites and subsequently, when the saliva has softened the food inducing a change of its consistence. You bandage the children. As turn, one of them the bandage will remove from him. Deliver him one of the foods previously tasted and ask to bite him/it to him and to chew him/it, possibly to open mouth so that to favor the diffusion of the sounds. In the meantime, the others, staying bandaged, they will try to guess the mysterious food.