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Low Stress Strategies to Bring Feeding Therapy Home for the Picky Eater

Do you ever feel like you are struggling to get your child to eat even though they are getting feeding therapy from an occupational therapist or speech language pathologist?

Here are some easy tips from your APT-Chattanooga feeding therapist:

Make a plan for when you will address the child therapeutically during mealtime:

Would your feeding therapist like you to address the child therapeutically at every mealtime opportunity? Absolutely! But we also know this is not feasible in the day to day.

Make a plan at the start of each week for which mealtimes or snack times you will give more time to.

Ensure that your child is positioned as best as possible with the items you have available. It is optimal for your toddler or school aged child to be positioned with foot support at the least. Your child should be positioned so that they don’t have to wiggle in order to see all of the food available to them.

Change your eating environment! If your child is used to their plate being on a table, change the way the table looks by adding fun place mats or even construction paper place mats.

Wear a pair of silly glasses or a fun hat when you decide to join your child at the table.

Always have at least one preferred food item available when presenting your child with new food or a food that is less preferred.

Focus on playing and teaching instead of eating! Depending on your child’s age they may like fun sensory play models (Smash! Jump! Bang!). Most children working on feeding will also benefit from learning more about their mouths and where the food goes in their mouth with play themes (I bite with my shark teeth! I chew with my bear teeth! My food is hiding! My tongue has to find it!)
Keep a handheld mirror at the table to show the child that we are curious about how the food looks in our mouth.
Try your best to uphold the rule, “We clean up before we leave the table”. This may look like keeping a Tupperware/bucket on the table where the child throws the food in when they are all done eating.

Though these tips may not work for every picky eater, the hope is that you find success in creating a more positive relationship with mealtime through play. Change does not happen overnight, but every time your child leaves the table in a positive mood it can be counted as success!

These recommendations may not be appropriate for children who are eating less than 10 different food items. These recommendations may not be appropriate for children who are medically compromised or complex. Please discuss these recommendations with your feeding therapist or pediatrician prior to implementing them at home!

–Samantha Mappes, OTR/L