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Sensory Weaning

Explore the senses with Sensory Weaning!

Tidy tot Weaning bib

Sensory Weaning

Sensory Weaning is a new term given to describe the learning experience of transitioning from milk to solid foods. Tidy Tot has worked together with award-winning Children’s Nutritionist & Baby Weaning Expert Sarah Almond Bushell to develop this new approach to weaning which involves engaging all of your baby’s senses to develop happy and confident little eaters.

And while you and your baby focus on your Sensory Weaning adventure, you can relax safe in the knowledge that Tidy Tot has the products you need to minimise the clean-up operation afterwards!

Kick start your Sensory Weaning adventure with our FREE downloadable flash cards!

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Your Sensory Weaning Questions Answered

Need some help with the mess?

Don’t worry! With our award-winning range of baby weaning bibs, we really do have you covered!

Our iconic Tidy Tot Bib & Tray Kit features a coverall bib and integrated wipe-clean tray to eliminate the gap between baby and highchair and provide an excellent platform from which your baby can explore their food.

For active little ones up to 3 years, our Long Length Coverall Bib is the longest coverall bib on the market, providing excellent protection from food mess and spills and perfect for creative play too! 

And for full protection whilst also ‘catching’ food mess and spills, you can’t beat our clever Cover & Catch Bib which sticks to your highchair tray or dining table using innovative suction cups for ‘no more gaps’!

How do we start our Sensory Weaning journey?

It doesn’t really matter which style of weaning you choose, whether it be spoon-feeding or Baby-Led Weaning- the key is to be responsive to your baby and follow their lead. You may have planned to go traditional but some babies are fiercely independent and embrace Baby-Led Weaning, refusing the spoon entirely, others are more laid back and wouldn’t eat a thing unless it is presented to them on a spoon.

Whichever method you go with your little one needs to be involved, getting their hands stuck in, exploring a wide variety of different textures and understanding how food feels, sounds, smells, moves and tastes. This lies at the heart of Sensory Weaning.

Your baby is usually ready for solids at around 6 months of age, sometimes it’s earlier but they’re not developmentally ready before 17 weeks. If you want to check for signs of developmental readiness you can access a guide here.  If your baby was born premature, or you want to start weaning before 6 months, we recommend always checking with a health professional before you start.

What senses are involved in Sensory Weaning?

Learning to eat is the most complex sensory task that your baby has to do in his first year of life. There are eight different senses that he has to integrate and coordinate in the correct way in order to eat and there are 32 sensory steps he must go through before a new food is learned. It’s an intricate process!

The senses we focus on in Sensory Weaning are:

Visual (sight)

Tactile (touch, textures)

Auditory (sound)

Olfactory (smell)

Gustory (taste)

Proprioception (location/orientation of self in space e.g movement)

Vestibular (balance and orientation of self in relation to gravity)

Interoception (the ability to read and interpret internal bodily signal e.g feeling hunger)

How can I help & encourage my baby?

You can encourage your baby on his Sensory Weaning journey by:

Offering all sorts of different textures including crunchy (think savoury puffs), wet (think purees or yoghurt), chewy (think a strip of slow-cooked beef or dark chicken meat), soft solids (pancakes, pasta, bread or cheese),avoid hard solids till your baby is good at chewing and has teeth (think raw carrot sticks) Let your baby eat with their hands.

If you’re using a spoon let them have one too and let them dig inIf they end up with food all over their face and hands leave it there for the duration of the meal

Are you a spoon scraper? If so stop; it’s quite uncomfortable and distracting for your baby. Eat some of the food too. Get it on your hands and raise your hands to your mouth – this shows your baby what to do. They learn best from copying you.

Leave the wipes behind – don’t clean the highchair tray mid-meal. Wait till mealtime is over. Take your baby away from the highchair to get cleaned up and consider letting them splash in a bowl of warm soapy water rather than reaching for the wipes!

It’s ok to wipe little hands if you think they are going to put them in their eyes!

But what about the mess?

It’s a very messy business and it really needs to be otherwise your little one won’t get the full exposure and benefit of learning about food.

This is where the Tidy Tot Bib and Tray Kit really helps. It uses a coverall bib with integrated tray to keep your little one’s clothes, highchair and floor pristine; allowing them to get fully emerged in their sensory weaning experience, learning all the way, but without the timely clean-up for you.

How to introduce flavour when Sensory Weaning?

Treat each spice like a new food. Introduce them to your baby slowly and individually. Leave a few days between each one to assess any potential sensitivities (better to be safe)

Herbs and spices have different characteristics. It is important to begin with ‘baby friendly’ and aromatic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander and cumin. Hotter spices (chilli, black pepper, paprika) which create a sense of heat and trigger pain receptors should be introduced later at around 1 year in small quantities

Start with a whole herb or spice infusion. This could be subtle tastes from homemade stocks or whole spices added to food and then removed. Next you can use just a pinch of ground herbs or spices. You’d be surprised how a little goes a long way. Think about the quantity of food vs the amount of herb or spice you add – over seasoning could lead to overwhelming the meal. View Full Blog

Creative play bib and tray kit

Sensory Processes

The different sensory processes happen in different areas of the brain and the more sensory experiences your baby has the more his brain develops. Letting your little one get stuck in means that he is stimulating his brain, forming neural connections from one area to another which leads to learning new skills and behaviours.

It’s natural for babies to actively seek out this type of play but unfortunately, you can’t give a 6-month-old finger paint, a sand pit or play dough to immerse themselves in as they will just eat it, so food is your best option. Furthermore whilst playing with food – that fist covered in carrot puree? It will eventually make its way to your baby’s mouth and he will notice that it has a taste too – this becomes the very first experience of self-feeding.