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5 Ways to Create a Fun and Pressure-Free Mealtime Routine

1. Allow your child to tag along on grocery shopping trips. Bring along a color wheel or food group chart and allow your child to pick out fruits and vegetables according to the color or food group. Encourage social engagement and interactions about how they feel, look, smell, and might taste!

2. Create a mealtime chart with your child or children. On this chart, indicate the meals for the day or week. Instead of identifying the exact food name (i.e. broccoli, carrots), give it a new fun name or identify it by a color (i.e. green trees, or orange sticks). It is extra fun to allow your child to give the food a name for the chart and to even allow your child to have one day that is his/her choice for the foods.

3. Encourage fun (and safe) mealtime preparation. Use a counter-height stool or chair for your child to help with meal prep. Child-safe and/or plastic knives are an excellent way to allow your child to chop/cut up food, all while allowing for positive sensory and social engagement with the food. Your child may also enjoy being allowed to plate food for everyone at the table and serve it themselves!

4. Change the mealtime environment by creating a fun mealtime theme, such as camping, and your food can reflect the theme of the day/night! Instead of eating with the lights ON, turn the lights off or use flashlights. You can even lay out blankets, put up a tent, eat with only your hands, or use camping chairs to add more fun! BONUS: do this without telling your child(ren), they will love the extra surprise and fun with mealtime.

5. Allow your child to participate in mealtime cleanup. A great way to further encourage sensory engagement and interactions with food is by clearing the table, taking food (as needed) to the trash can, and washing food off plates, bowls, and utensils. Washing with bubbly soap and water is such a fun way to end a mealtime. Bring a chair or stool up to the sink for ease of access and have a few extra towels handy!

Kristen Wilcox MS, OTR/L

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