While you don't need anything special for Baby-led Weaning or toddler feeding, the right gear (and realistic expectations) make restaurant eating much easier. Check out our Amazon shop that includes a Restaurant Essentials section.
Here are some of our favorites for eating on the go:
Do your kids enjoy blueberries? There are so many amazing ways to use this summer fruit, which is crazy high in phytochemicals (but definitely can turn kid poop blue). You can definitely serve blueberries as is (modified for age), but we like to change it up and use blueberries in other ways too.
Here are a few ways that our family enjoys blueberries:
We recommend squishing or halving for kids under 12 months to be extra safe (although they’re not a true choking hazard). Keep the salad for older eaters due to the honey (a no no under 1) and the whole nuts (avoid until 4).
If you are looking for more ideas like this, you can follow us on Instagram or check out our online Toddler Course.
Magic bars are always the favorite of the party when we make them. We gifted them to neighbors recently and I already got the "best neighbor ever" text from a few of them - one asked to put in a large order, another asked if I’m selling them. Not kidding, they’re insanely good!
Do you feel out of control around holiday desserts? One thing to try: sit down so you can really enjoy your dessert - we savor food most thoroughly when we are given the space to enjoy the eating process. Put it on a plate, maybe grab a glass of milk/milk alternative (or beverage of choice), and taste it! Eat slowly and savor each bite! After all, isn’t that why you want to eat it?
We usually use more quantities than what typical recipes call for - see images below of us putting together the layers. *Make sure the walnuts are finely crushed if serving this to kiddos under 4.*
Judy here, back with another feeding therapy tip! Many families like baking cookies from scratch around the holidays - perhaps it's something you did with your family growing up, and hopefully you have positive memories of the experience!
Did you know that baking holiday cookies is also an amazing sensory, fine/large motor, and life skill activity that I actually use with some feeding therapy clients? Check out these images of me doing this with a client!
Baking cookies from scratch can be especially helpful for kids who hate touching gooey textures or getting their hands messy.
A few tips:
Activities you can give your child to do, depending on age and comfort level:
How can you make this a success?
You can start baking with kids starting at 16 to 18 months old. They will be touching (and eventually eating) various textures, which makes great sensory play. You child will also be practicing fine and large motor development, math, communication/language, following directions/sequencing, and patience! Most of all, you are encouraging independence, a love for cooking, and making memories as a family!
Are you ready for Thanksgiving with your baby, toddler, or child?
Here are different ways you *can* serve Thanksgiving dinner to kids of various ages! These ideas are by no means prescriptive and are meant to inspire you!
A few things to note:
We hope your holiday is full of laughter, good food, and perfect imperfection.
Do you have a go-to party or holiday appetizer? I love making new party snacks!
This one is my favorite - it’s requested by my dad’s golf friends every time I see them! The smoky, salty sweet combo of the olives, goat cheese and crushed smoked almonds make it taste complex and interesting, but it’s literally just three ingredients! You’ll feel like a fancy gourmand serving these, even if you couldn't accomplish other tasks in your day you meant to get to. Kids can eat this too, just make sure to quarter the olives for kids under 4.
These ingredients were just what I found at Target but you can use whatever you can get!
We love squash, especially during the fall months! These fall favorites are super high in vitamins and minerals and have a hearty texture that helps bulk up a meal so you’re satisfied when finished and have more leftover! They’re a great first food for baby because they’re soft enough for strong gums and are usually well liked by new eaters.
These delicious beauties are shown here cut as wedges - technically some of them are half moons because of the round shape of the squash. All that matters is that baby can pick them up using a palmar grasp and can bring them to their mouth.
A few things to note:
These are simple preparations - you can change it up as much as you'd like to meet your family's needs and favorite tastes.
Need help encouraging your baby to feed themself real foods? Check out our online Infant Feeding Course to get professional nutrition and feeding help from the comfort of your home!
Did your child dislike touching the insides of a pumpkin when carving pumpkins this Halloween season? If so, they may struggle with squishy, wet textures – and playing with water beads can help! Water beads can be found on Amazon or many craft stores.
Safety Note: water beads, although non-toxic, are NOT meant to be consumed as they continue absorbing water as they travel through the intestines. They’re also choking hazards if eaten. This activity is only meant to be done with older toddlers or kids who don’t put toys in their mouths and under very close parental supervision.
When it comes to sensory processing, many people fall under two camps: sensory seekers and sensory avoiders. Sensory seekers like strong sensory inputs – for example, they’ll seek out spicy, sour or heavily flavored foods. Most sensory seekers love water beads, too. Playing with them is almost mesmerizing and can emulate an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)-like experience.
(If you are a sensory seeker, search #asmr, #asmrslime, #asmrsand and other ASMR hashtags on Instagram to discover an amazing new world! I apologize in advance – you will be hooked to these videos!)
On the other hand, sensory avoiding children and adults may not love the feeling of water beads on their hands, but playing with this type of medium helps them become more tolerant of wet, squishy foods like peas, berries, grapes, cherry tomatoes and wet pasta.
Start by having your child help pour the dried water “beadlet” into a bowl with amount of water recommended on the instructions. Give them the control to pour the water, then watch as these water beads soak it all up. Be certain to use a large enough container - you will be shocked as to how big these little “beadlets” can grow!
Once they are at full sized, usually in 3-4 hours, ask your child to stir the water beads with a wooden spoon, scooping them with a measuring cups into a large mouthed funnel. Maybe holding the funnel is the most they can do. Sometimes just being in the same room with an activity of this nature is more than a child can tolerate. Adding familiar toys (toy cars and trucks, toy slide, toy shovels, balls, etc.) can encourage play, but never force your child to participate.
Here are some end goals to keep in mind:
Selective eating can improve with sensory play.
What thing can you just not stand to touch? I HATE touching chalk, and Megan despises touching anything with pruny post-swim hands!
Sometimes kids really hate touching certain textures or getting their hands dirty. If this aversion interferes with normal daily life - as in, they won’t touch certain foods or won’t eat certain textures, they won’t play with specific toys or art mediums, or they struggle with touch in other aspects of daily life - some sensory play may be in order.
To continue our Foodie Judy series (check out our other sensory posts on dry textures and wet, sticky textures), I want to share with you one of my favorite activities for kids who dislike getting their hands dirty - dot paint markers! Do A Dot Art washable paint markers are an AMAZING set that are great because they’re super portable and not messy (kids don’t have to touch the mess directly), but they create spots of paint that kids eventually want to touch and finger paint with! Make sure to have a bowl of water and some towels nearby in case your child gets anxious about the mess.
The more comfortable kids get with messy hands, the more tolerant they are of different textures at mealtime! It really does help - if you feel like you need more help with sensory struggles, ask your doctor about a referral to an Occupational Therapist specializing in sensory development. It can make all the difference!
A strategy for more mindful eating.
As Halloween approaches, so many parents get anxious about candy and sugar - check out more on this in our other posts about handling Halloween candy and stressing less about sugar!
What I (Megan) have seen is that many parents are uncomfortable around sugar and candy because they don’t know how to handle it themselves. Perhaps you find yourself eating an entire bag of Reeses’ Pieces the week leading up to Halloween, or your kids’ candy loot feels like it has some sort of control over you. Sound familiar? You aren’t alone.
What I love about being in the Instagram community is learning from so many other intuitive eating dietitians, and one phrase I’ve seen floating around many of their accounts is that we are simply giving candy and sugar way too much credit. We’re giving it too much power. It’s so true. The more we obsess about it and restrict it, the more we crave it and the less we actually enjoy it while eating it. Do you notice that you eat candy very quickly so you “destroy the evidence”? If you think about it - what’s the point? Why eat it if we don’t actually enjoy it??
I challenge you to give yourself a little more credit and take the power away from that food. One way to do this is by sitting with candy (or any food) and really letting yourself actually enjoy it. Yes, eat it like you’re wine tasting. Really taste it. Give it time and aim for satisfaction from the eating experience.
Here are some tips for doing a simple mindful eating activity:
What you may notice is that a few bites hit the spot, or that you don’t actually like the candy once you’ve let yourself taste it. Maybe you need more than you thought. Perhaps you realize that you’d prefer another type of candy. Whatever you discover is OK.
I challenge you to try this again a few times as Halloween approaches, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat - and enjoy - some candy, however much that may be. You are worthy of eating food that tastes good, and that applies no matter what size you are or what you’ve eaten that day.
Do you need help with this? Please check out the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I have said it before and I’ll say it again - it will change your life!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!