Anyone who has raised or worked with children knows that mealtime can be a struggle. Kids are often stubborn about what they will or won’t eat at any given time, and there may or may not be any rhyme or reason. Picky eating is a normal phase that children go through, but if your child is very limiting with what they will eat and it begins to impact their health, it can be problematic. Feeding therapy for children can help to increase the variety of foods and textures they’ll eat and also support them with the actual process of chewing and swallowing.
Recognizing if your child is a picky eater and getting them help early on from a feeding specialist can improve their relationship with food as they get older. It can also benefit children with swallowing issues who may not eat a lot of foods because they’re unable to chew them correctly or gag when swallowing. Feeding therapy can be beneficial for many reasons:
You’ll Have an Established Feeding Plan
Working with professional pediatric therapists, you can create a feeding plan that works for your child and your family. It is important to set regular meal and snack times and stick to them. A food planner can help you figure out what types of foods your child should be trying and when, as well as what child development milestones are appropriate. Remember that children must be exposed to foods around a dozen times before truly deciding if they like them or not; and their preference may change as they get older and their sense of taste is refined.
You’ll Practice Proven Feeding Techniques for Eating Disorders
Whether children have a food aversion disorder, sensory issues, or swallowing issues, feeding therapy can help. A trained therapist can work with your child to feel more comfortable eating food of different consistencies, textures, and flavors. They’ll also show you parental involvement techniques so you can practice the same strategies at home and support your child in continuing to try new foods. Even if they just eat a bite or two, it is progress.
For children who have swallowing problems, VitalStim therapy can be beneficial. Part of feeding therapy, VitalStim uses a device to actually stimulate the muscles in the throat and retrain them in how to swallow. It can also help to strengthen weak swallowing muscles so it is easier for children to eat solid foods and those with a thicker consistency.
You’ll Know How to Make Mealtimes Pleasant, Easy, and Appealing
Children can become anxious and stressed when they don’t know what to expect or fear they will be forced to eat. Let your child be the guide to whether they eat and how much, but stick with a consistent schedule and routine for mealtimes and snacks so they know what to expect. Offer at least one food you know they like and vary other options with things you would like them to try.
Trying to force, guilt, or demand your child to eat something can actually backfire and make them more averse to eating or trying new foods. Approach food with a positive attitude and talk about what you’ve made or are offering them. For instance, you could tell them that you know they like apples, so you made apple cinnamon muffins, or you put peanut butter on top of apple slices.
You’ll Learn How to Introduce New Foods with Fun and Games
Another way to encourage a picky eater to try new foods is through fun food games. A feeding specialist may recommend strategies such as the following to expose your child to different foods and get them more involved in the process.
Fun Food Games Your Kids Will Love
- Stringing cereal to make a necklace.
- Closing their eyes and trying to guess what food they’re tasting.
- Using different foods to make funny faces or designs on their plate.
- Working on sensory issues by painting with yogurt or sticking their hands in a dish of jell-o and picking out fruit pieces.
- Replacing game board pieces with crackers, marshmallows, or other snacks so they can eat them as they play. Try tic-tac-toe or checkers.
- Making edible playdough out of peanut butter and powdered sugar.
These activities can also be great as occupational therapy for children as they work on coordination, fine motor skills, and feeding themselves.
Feeding therapy for children can be a wonderful way to support their development and help them eat a more well-balanced diet so they’re getting proper nutrition. Food aversion disorder and other challenges can impact your child’s development if they’re not eating enough or physically have issues with chewing or swallowing. A feeding therapist can educate, train, and support your family with overcoming feeding obstacles and helping your child to thrive.
Therapeutic Movements offers not only feeding therapy, but also VitalStim therapy, as a way to help children develop better feeding practices. After evaluating your child’s needs, an individualized plan is created to help them meet established goals and improve their relationship with food. If you’re concerned your child’s picky eating may be something more serious, reach out to Therapeutic Movements today.