"Open your mouth, here comes the plane!"
I'm having flashbacks to my young daughter and trying to bribe her with yoghurt to eat her dinner. Oh the things I tried. Oh the stress I placed on myself! Oh the stress I placed on her!
Have you ever tried to coax your child to eat? It can be so STRESSFUL!
Have you ever had to stop your child from over-eating? It can be so STRESSFUL!
Join me this month in looking at meal times! I'm joined by my therapy blogger colleagues in the "Functional Skills for Kids Blog Series". There are heaps of tips and tricks to help your little ones at meal times with the links below.
I wish I had read these articles as new parent. I wish I could tell first-time-parent-Cindy some of the things in this article!
Here are 4 ways to modify meal times for your FUSSY eater!
1. ALTERNATIVE CUTLERY
(a) Cutlery with built up hands allow for easier grip for those with fine motor difficulties. Bendable necks of cutlery can help to angle the metal part so that the child (or adult) has more success with independent eating. Try Good Grips Utensils with built up handles. Read more about FM skills at meal times with Therapy Fun Zone's article HERE.
(b) Shallower spoons are particularly good for kids with a strong gag reflex. The spoon does not need to be inserted too far into the mouth and the food comes off more easily. Try Gerber Graduates Spoon.
(c) Weighted cutlery can help those who are experiencing difficulties with body and spatial awareness as well as sensory registration. Try Good Grips Utensils Weighted set of 4.
(d) Chopsticks with training loops provide a guide for finger placement. Try Edison Chopsticks with right hand Minnie or right hand Mickey or left hand bunny. Some kids enjoy the novelty of picking food up with chopsticks. These are also great for working on hand strength and a tripod grasp too! I love using these chopsticks in OT (and not for meal times)! Read about thisHERE.
(e) Novelty cutlery is everywhere on the market . You can find planes, bulldozers, block figures andvarious characters, etc! Kids enjoy using novelty cutlery as it brings a playful element into an every day activity.
Read also how you can adapt regular cutlery withSugar Aunt's article here.
2. DIVIDED PLATES, BOWLS AND LUNCH BOXES!
Divided plates, bowls and lunch boxes are a great way to help fussy eaters. They allow you to separate food into portions. You may still present the food that they refuse and gradually encourage mixing foods from different sections. Remember that it often takes multiple presentations of the same food before a child will try something new. It is also okay if they don't eat it! Keep presenting it and don't worry!
In a practical sense, divided plates, bowls and lunch boxes also keep wet foods separate from dry.
There is a huge range of tableware on the market. You could try these:
For lunch boxes, you could try these:
Divided plates, bowls and lunch boxes can help kids who -
3. REGULAR ROUTINE
Establishing regular eating times and habits help children with meal times. It doesn't have to be regimented, however if meals are always around the same time of day; then your child will develop a natural circadian rhythm (natural body clock). They will begin to feel hungry at the same time of day. This will also help kids to sleep better!
Establishing a family routine of setting the table, sitting, eating, talking, packing away... help children who have difficulty with transitions, creating stability and order. It can help children to understand the beginning and end of the "activity".
Children also learn by example. As they see you trying new food, they want to follow. Sometimes the food on your plate might be more appealing than what they are eating. Some children prefer to feed themselves, whether that be finger food or with cutlery. Encourage this! Although it can often be quicker to feed young children yourself, this will pay off in the long run.
4. HIDDEN VEGGIES!
For or against? There are two philosophies around disguising vegetables in other food.
Some people stress the importance of teaching kids a knowledge of "farmyard to plate". Teaching kids where food comes from and how it grows. Getting kids digging in the garden, planting seeds, watering and watching them grow!
Some people consider hidden veggies a brilliant idea! Genius! Sneak them in so at least kids are consuming veggies where they might otherwise refuse if they "see" them.
You can try these recipes with hidden veggies!
Why not try both philosophies simultaneously?
As a new parent wrangling with my firstborn, I wish I had known of some of these ways to modify meal times. The main tip I would tell first-time-parent-Cindy... was that it was going to be okay if she didn't everything but to keep on presenting it to her anyway. REALLY - it's okay if she doesn't eat it!
Do you have a fussy eater?
Have you tried hiding veggies? Does your child have a favourite lunch box or dinner ware?
What is your best tip to help modify meal times?
This post is part of “Functional Skills for Kids: 12 month series by Paediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists”. You can read all of the childhood functions HERE. Read all Your Kids OT’s monthly posts HERE.
For more information about “meal times”, read what other Occupational and Physical Therapists participating in the “Functional Skills for Kids series” have written:
When Can Kids Feed Themselves? (and other mealtime milestones) | Mama OT
Fine Motor Skills For Mealtimes | Therapy Fun Zone
Postural Control, Gross Motor Development and Mealtime |Your Therapy Source
Attention, Behavior, and Meal Time Problems | Sugar Aunts
4 Ways to Modify Meal Times for Fussy Eaters | Your Kids OT
Mealtime Skills, Rituals & Play - Nurturing a Love for Food | Kids Play Space
15 Tips for Picky Eaters | The Inspired Treehouse
Positioning, Motor Skills, and Table Manners: What the Connection? | Miss Jaime OT
Visual Perceptual Skills Needed for Independent Feeding | Growing Hands-On Kids
Cindy is a registered Occupational Therapist practising in Sydney Australia. She has two young children who are a constant source of inspiration and learning. Cindy loves working creatively to help children to reach their potential, finding opportunities in everyday living and making learning fun. Cindy is the author of the occupational therapy blog Your Kids OT.
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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