Most children experience difficulty with eating at some point, but when should caregivers become concerned? This presentation reviews factors that influence the development of feeding and mealtime skills and provides strategies for improving those skills.
My student only eats food that is blended. What tips do you have to help with transitioning him?
When a child only eats blended food, the first question I ask is, why? I would want to know if there are any physical problems that are preventing your child from safely and efficiently eating foods that require chewing, or is there a sensory issue that keeps him from advancing his diet? Talking to the student’s pediatrician and asking for a referral to a feeding specialist is a good place to start. Once the feeding specialist has done an assessment, a feeding plan would be developed. Depending on the reason for why your child is only eating blended foods, the plan might include strategies to decrease sensitivity to the feeling of different textures in the mouth or might suggest ways of slowly adding texture to the food by adding crumbs or through other techniques. The plan could include suggestions to improve biting and chewing skills.
Without knowing your student, I cannot give you specific recommendations, but I would suggest that you continue to offer a variety of blended foods so your baby is exposed to a wide range of tastes and aromas. You want to keep expanding your student’s palate. Also, continue to encourage your student to explore a variety of teethers with different shapes and textures so his tongue and teeth can experience more than puree. Putting food into a mesh or silicone baby feeder is a good way to introduce biting and chewing without the risk of choking, as the solid food stays encased in the little bag with only the juice or tiny pieces of food coming though. Creating a mealtime routine and setting mealtime expectations are also strategies everyone can employ to support better outcomes at meals.
Do you have feeding services for toddlers at Perkins?
Perkins does not offer feeding therapy for toddlers. Check with your Early Intervention providers to see if they have a Speech and Language Pathologist or an Occupational Therapist who can provide this service. They might also have recommendations for other providers in your area.
My child perfectly grabs her toothbrush on her tray and uses it but refuses to do so with the spoon at mealtime. At best I can ask to touch the spoon before a bite. She has never attempted to touch the food that is presented, only examined it close at times. She doesn’t seem to like me helping her to explore either. Any suggestions?
The good news is that your child is capable of using her hands to grasp and hold an object and that she can bring an object to her mouth. It’s also great that she is using a toothbrush as so many children reject having a toothbrush in their mouth! If your child is hesitant to explore foods with her hands you might try doing some hand warm-up exercises when first sitting down at the table. Clapping, rubbing hands together, squeezing and patting the table are all strategies to decrease hand sensitivity. If she is working with an Occupational Therapist you might ask for additional ideas of this nature. See if your daughter will let her hands ride piggy-back on top of your hands while you touch different foods. This hand-under-hand technique is often accepted by children who hesitate to explore with their hands. Talk about the actions that you’re doing; patting, poking, pinching, rolling, etc. and make it playful. Putting chocolate pudding into a zip-lock bag and placing it on a lighted surface is a fun way to explore what can happen when you “finger paint” with pudding but without getting messy hands.
Oftentimes children will be more apt to touch food when engaged in an activity away from the table. Reading books with food themes and having some of the food available to touch while you’re reading is a good way to pair a relaxing activity with food exploration. Playing with spoons away from the table is also a great way to encourage your daughter to interact with and touch spoons. Use spoons in the tub, in water play in the sink, in the garden or the sandbox. Fill a plastic container with a variety of spoons and dump them out and sort them together. Use spoons to bang on pots and pans and explore the different sounds they make. Try using the piggy-back technique when playing with spoons and talk about the actions as you’re doing them; banging, stirring, scooping, splashing, etc. Always have an extra spoon on your daughter’s tray at mealtime too and talk about the fun things she helped you do with spoons during playtime away from the table.