Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Play with your food!

I recently got the chance to hear a Speech & Language Pathologist who works with children who have feeding issues.  My kiddos have not had the challenges that come from being picky eaters, with the occasional exception; however, I realize that many parents out there deal with this on a daily basis so I thought about some things that might help.

Many children struggle with sensory issues and food is a big part of that (tactile avoidance can often show up by children wanting to avoid certain textures in their mouth).  Others might be behind a bit in the sensory-motor skills that involve chewing and swallowing food.  There are also 80 other reasons for food to be something that causes some parents to cringe.  Perhaps your child was not fed well at an early age, has a medical issue, sees food as a battle for control when they are afraid.  Many of these things can get better with help and time, but for the parent who struggles every night at the dinner table, this post if for you!

One of the main things I learned about helping children who are extremely picky and will not eat a variety of foods is that playing with food is actually encouraged and supported by the research!  I can totally get behind that concept ;).  Especially since playing with your food is both a sensory activity and can encourage exploration of new sights and smells without the fear of having to eat foods that may seem scary because of texture or past experience.

What if kids had a chance to play with their food without the pressure of eating it?  Then they can get used to the smells and textures at their own pace and the tactile experience in a less threatening way without having to put anything in their mouths!  Also, play is extremely disarming to the fight/ flight response and fear.  So playing with food might be a way to get the accidental blueberry or cauliflower past little lips ;).

Mom's very literal interpretation of flowers and a sun...My kids were much more creative, see below!

She calls it, "Dinosaur Footprints"!  Cannot get over how creative my kids are sometimes (obviously more so than their mama!)
Abstract Masterpieces ;)

The Best Part!  Stuffing those sweet cheeks with works of art:) 
Although my kids gobbled up their masterpieces right after making them, this post is not about trying to get your kids to eat right away.  Your child may just play with it for a while and that's OK.  If you have a troubled eater, incorporating playing with food each day can help them on the road to trying new things, getting used to foods with textures they might not currently like, and overcoming fear with food!

Ideas for playing with food

Have a variety of textures (mushy, crunchy, dry, wet), sizes (can cut in different sizes or use different sized foods), and colors of foods.

Here are some ideas for different foods that might be fun.

  • berries, raspberry, blueberries, strawberries, halved
  • carrots
  • pineapple
  • pears, apples, larger hard fruits
  • leafy greens like spinach or kale
  • avocados cut in long and short slices
  • cauliflower comes in white, orange, green, and purple at some markets, or broccoli
  • larger nuts like almonds, pistachios, macadamias, cashews
  • smaller seeds or nuts like hemp hearts or chia seeds
  • carrots
  • pickles
  • cucumbers 
  • dried fruit
  • grapes
  • sauces like hummus, guacamole, dips
  • TOOTHPICKS!  (this made it much more fun, especially with building structures with the grapes!)
Happy Playing With Food!

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