How can I help my child try new foods? With SPOT Paediatrics

Mealtimes can be quite the challenge for families, the Occupational Therapists at SPOT Paediatrics have shared with us some strategies which might help encourage your child to embrace a wider, more varied diet.

Let them join in the kitchen fun

Involving your child in meal preparation and shopping can be an exciting adventure. Let them stir, measure, chop, and search for ingredients – it’s a fantastic way to make mealtimes more engaging!

Engage the senses

Encourage your little one to explore new foods using different senses. Smell, touch, lick, and nibble – playing with food can be an enjoyable way to discover new flavours.

Imaginative play

Incorporate real or pretend foods through imaginative play. Set up a delightful tea party with toys, create a pretend restaurant, or engage in some shopping fun with a toy cash register.

Practice cutlery skills

Develop cutlery skills with playdough or theraputty. Roll the dough into “sausage” shapes and use cutlery to practice the cutting motion with a knife and applying pressure with a fork. Encourage scooping practice with a spoon using beans, rice, sand, or toys.

Create a comfortable environment

For kids who don’t like messy hands (tactile defensiveness), keep a handkerchief or wet towel handy for quick cleanups. Offer one food your child enjoys at each meal to make them feel comfortable while still being open to exploring other options on the table.

Choose the right seating

If your child struggles to stay at the table, consider their seating. Ensure they can sit in a stable position with their feet flat on the ground, back supported, and elbows above the table. Adjustable seating options like a trip trap chair are a great choice as your child grows. Wobble cushions or vibration cushions can also provide sensory input while keeping them seated.

Understand hunger cues

Check if your child is genuinely hungry. Sometimes they eat so frequently throughout the day that they may not be genuinely hungry during mealtime. Teaching children to listen to their body’s hunger cues helps them self-regulate as they grow.

Watch out for food jagging

Food jagging is when you have eaten a particular food over and over and now you can no longer look at it or eat it. If this is happening for your child, seeing a therapist experienced in food therapy will be essential to support you to work through food choices and help expand their ability to eat a new food or a wider range of foods.

By implementing these strategies, you can make mealtimes a more enjoyable and adventurous experience for your little ones!

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