Sand timers can work wonders with toddlers and kids before they are old enough to understand the concept of time and duration!
Judy here - I’m an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy. Since I’m an OT, I also work with my clients on play and physical development, as it all supports successful feeding. One helpful tool that I use with many families is a sand timer.
Many clients also use timers on their phones or in the kitchen - a sand timer just helps kids visualize time a little more.
Why is a sand timer helpful when used in a positive way? Young children do not understand the concept of time. They may understand that we’re leaving the park now or that their birthday is tomorrow, but most kids don’t grasp the idea of duration of time until at least 7 or 8 years of age. Sand timers can help kids as young as 2 visualize how much time is left.
This is great when used right before dinner when your kid is tearing through the house. It can also help in playtime, especially when your child doesn’t want to leave or struggles with transitions.
Sand timers also help in daily activities like brushing teeth, bathing, washing hands, cleaning up their bedroom, screen time etc.
Head to our Amazon shop to check out some sand timer recommendations!
We recommend using sand timers in a positive, not punitive, way. If you’re trying to work on your 3-year-old staying at the table longer, use the timer as a visual cue and a fun game. “OK, the timer’s not done yet so we’re going to sit together a little longer while we eat - can you show me how you put your pasta in a line? How about a circle?” (Food play really helps engage children in the meal - check out Step 7 of our online Toddler Course for more on this!)
If your child is taking a long time to eat a meal (longer than 30 minutes), a sand timer can be helpful to remind them that we have other activities to get to. However, if they are taking a long time because they can’t seem to chew or have sensory/behavioral issues keeping them from eating at a reasonable pace, please speak with your provider.
We are often asked "How do I respond when people constantly comment on my child’s body size in front of them?”
When my youngest was 3 months old (and 99th percentile weight/age and length/age), a woman came up to me at lunch and said, “My dear, what on earth are you feeding that poor child?” As you can imagine, there were so many responses that flooded my head (I really wanted to stand up for parents everywhere), but I responded with confusion as she shuffled away. I don’t know if she had any idea how hurtful her comment could be, especially if directed to a new parent who might be struggling with feeding their baby.
When you have a child that’s smaller or larger than “average,” it’s common for family, friends and strangers to make comments about their size. Many times it’s not said with malintent - it’s simply an observation or is used as small talk. When you don’t see a child for a few months it’s natural to celebrate how much they have grown or how tall they are becoming. It’s also easy to compare when you have children of the same age - their sizes can be dramatically different, and that’s OK! We are all meant to be different sizes.
However, sometimes these comments can strike an emotional chord.
These comments - which are said both with or without judgment - can be hurtful, and sometimes it helps to have quick responses to use.
Try out some of these responses to keep language more neutral about your child's body size.
The last two suggestions are a bit more direct and can be helpful when talking with a family member or someone who is around your child often - they can imply that you’re uncomfortable with them regularly talking about your child’s size and want to focus on something else.
Above all else, we recommend avoiding discussing nutritional or growth challenges in front of your child when possible.
It's natural to respond with, "Well, yeah, he never eats" or "She eats more than my husband does!" Children tend to live up to the labels we place on them, and the amount of food they eat depends on so many factors (many of which are out of your child's control).
If you kiddo always hears that they're "tiny" or "huge," try to remind them that they are just right for their body and that we are all so different. You can show them pictures of different animals and explain that not every creature is the same size. Reassure them that you will help them grow into the body that they are meant to have and that they can always talk to you about their body. Your home is a safe place for that.
In the end, the goal is for us to try to focus less on size and outward appearance and more on inner beauty, personality, values, strengths and what we're contributing to the world. As The Bird's Papaya says, "You are beautiful, and that's the least interesting thing about you!"
“I feel like I always serve the same breakfasts over and over again.” We hear this from clients often - do you relate?
Here are just some of our favorite morning meal foods - you may not have thought to try all of these! When modified, they can be safely served to kids 6+ months (see below).
We want breakfast to contain a little protein and some fat for satiety and blood sugar regulation, plus have at least one fruit or veggie.
All of these can be made dairy-free and nut-free with slight modifications (dairy-free yogurt, nut-free bar, etc).
Looking for more breakfast ideas? Check out our Family Meal Toolkit - Breakfast Edition!
Do you have a kiddo going off to preschool or elementary school this fall?
We take a lot of time choosing backpacks, school supplies, shoes and first day outfits, but it’s so important to make sure your child knows how to use their lunch gear and can open/close bottles and food containers if they won’t be assisted.
Here are some ways to prep for school lunch:
Does your toddler or child struggle with hydration? Here are a fun ways to encourage them to drink more H2O!
How much fluid do kids need? Check out our post Keeping Kids Hydrated in the Heat to read about fluid guidelines for babies, toddlers and kids up to 18 years old! (Fluid recommendations are probably much higher than you think!)
If you have either of our courses you also have our Milk and Weaning eBook - we have additional Foodie Judy ideas for water drinking on page 27! The eBook is also sold separately as well.
Your child’s urine should be pale yellow, and babies/toddlers in diapers should be producing at least 5-6 wet diapers per day. Signs of dehydration in children include dry lips/skin, dark urine, excessive sleepiness, low energy, and no tears when crying. Speak with your provider if your suspect dehydration.
Milk counts toward hydration in toddlers/kids, but we want to promote water as a primary beverage as kids get older. Here’s how:
A client in our Feeding Littles Clients Only Facebook Group asked if it was discouraged to serve smoothies every day. The answer just depends on your family and your child!
Smoothies can be a great snack or part of a meal for many kids and can provide some key nutrients and calories. However, the more we serve our kids the same things over and over again, the less adventurous they become with food in the long run! So, if you do smoothies, mix it up!
How to make a smoothie:
Other things to keep in mind:
Here are just a few recipe ideas:
We also Halloween-themed smoothie recipes, orange (like a creamsicle) smoothie, and chocolate avocado smoothie recipe available in other blog posts. Plus, our very popular sweet berry constipation smoothie recipe is in a blog post as well for those who need some help "going".
Check out our free Breakfast Toolkit that has an entire section dedicated to smoothies!
Whenever we post about favorite salad toppings we get questions about how/when kids can eat salads, too - this post is very long overdue!
The biggest issue with salad is the safety of the greens. If we give a toddler soft leafy greens before they have a good rotary chew pattern established and a lot of teeth they may just swallow it whole. Lettuce leaves may be soft, but they do require lots of great chewing with teeth to break down (unlike many other foods that can be chewed successfully with gums).
Here are some simple guidelines:
A few additional tips:
When life changes, so does eating. Having a new baby definitely changes everything in your house. If you also have a toddler or older kid at home, don't be surprised if the addition of a sibling causes disruption at mealtime. You may find yourself serving crackers and milk for lunch. We want to be the first to tell you this: it's ok.
How can you make mealtime a little better with a newborn and an older kid - or multiple kids?
Do you have a kiddo that needs a little help in the growth department? Perhaps you’re pregnant and are struggling to gain weight yourself, or maybe you’re breastfeeding and are losing weight very quickly. We all have unique nutritional needs!
Sometimes we need to add Calorie Boosters to foods to help each bite count. One simple strategy we use with our clients is adding a layer of fat/oil underneath other toppings on toast, pancakes, waffles, rice cakes, sweet potato spears, etc. It helps each and every bite count a little bit more.
How do you know if your child needs this? Talk to your doc first! Are they worried about your kiddo’s growth? Can their growth trajectory be explained by genetic/environmental factors? If your doc’s not worried, keep doing what you’re doing! On the other hand, if your provider has expressed concern in your child’s growth it may help to try these strategies.
Nut allergy? Use sunflower seed butter or tahini (shown on top right toast).
Dairy-free? Try the Kite Hill Foods cream cheese spread with coconut oil or avocado oil underneath for the third toast option.
This is just one of the many techniques we’ve outlined in our new Calorie Boosters handout we just added to our Infant and Toddler Courses! It includes so many unique ideas and has allergen-friendly options. We also have included some tasty recipes! (If you already purchased either course you have access to this handout! Head to Step 5 in the Infant Course and 13 in the Toddler Course!)
We also added an entire handout for constipation in Step 4 of the Infant Course and Step 13 of the Toddler Course.
Our courses are live, meaning that you’ll always have the most updated version (and they don’t expire - as long as we’re hosting them!). Go back and watch them again and again.
Let’s talk DIPS! Did you know that the use of dips is something I use all the time in feeding therapy to help reluctant eaters learn how to eat more foods?
There are so many dip options - these are just a few! Kids also enjoy ketchup and ranch (obviously), as well as olive tapenade, broths and soups (including bone broth), gravy, dressings etc.
As an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy, I find dips really helpful for the following reasons:
I recommend offering them as early as 6 months (stick to the less salty ones in infancy like yogurt, smashed avocado, fruit purees, olive oil). Start by dipping strips of food into the dip and handing them to baby. By 14 months, your child may be able to dip on their own. You don’t have to use dips all the time, but it is fun to try them out when your kiddo isn’t into eating a specific food.
We hope you enjoy trying dips with your child! Don't forget to connect with us on Facebook or Instagram if you're struggling with your child's eating.