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!
One step at a time.
Hey everyone! OT/feeding therapist Foodie Judy here with more techniques to help your child’s eating habits improve through play!
Your child’s sensory system helps determine which kinds of food he or she eats. The inputs food gives us via our sensory system can be either positive or negative, and when children struggle to process these inputs correctly, food can seem really scary or off-putting. One common issue is a strong dislike for touching wet or sticky foods like pasta with sauce, hummus, “juicy” fruit or peanut butter on toast. Does your kid dislike these foods too?
My job as a feeding therapist is to help kids struggling with sensory, developmental, oral motor, or behavioral issues around food become more competent, successful eaters. When children have sensory challenges with food, we introduce those textures in a less threatening way - through play!
In this post, we are continuing our sensory play strategies using these wet textures. In our last post about this we started with dry mixed textures, so if your tot is struggling or you want to help develop and challenge their sensory system, check out that post too!
Here are my tips for successful sensory play with a wet/sticky bin:
Keep in mind the following end goals:
How to include all kids on Halloween.
Do you have a kid with food allergies?
If you’d like to include all kids - including those with food allergies or those who have medical issues that prevent them from eating candy - in Halloween, then consider being part of the Teal Pumpkin Project! This important project encourages families to display a teal pumpkin and have non-food options available for kids who can’t have standard candies. You can even add your house to the map HERE so trick-or-treaters know where to find safe treats.
We know that it’s tricky maneuvering the food allergy world. In fact, both Judy and myself have food allergies, and I (Megan) grew up with a severe anaphylactic allergy in my immediate family. It’s hard.
If you have an allergic kiddo, try to focus on language about “keeping you safe” when discussing allergies. Phrases like, “All bodies react differently to foods. Some people can eat all foods, but some people can’t. Your body doesn’t like xyz, so in order to keep you safe we have to have other options.”
Make sure to have alternative treats for your kiddo to enjoy too. There are some great common allergen-free candies at Target, where you can also find a teal pumpkin most years (and it's reusable)!
You can also have alternative options to candy all together. Some ideas include:
If you're interested in joining the Teal Pumpkin Project, here's how to participate:
What causes a dislike of mixed textures?
Do you have a child who hates mixed texture foods like casseroles or soups? Perhaps they don’t like toppings on their sandwich or pizza...sound familiar? Judy here to discuss some occupational therapy strategies utilizing sensory play that can decrease selective eating. The dislike of mixed textures originates from the sensory system and your child’s level of tolerance for different tactile (touch) inputs.
Interestingly enough, when you let your child play with mixed textures in a safe, no-pressure way (where they don’t have to eat it), you help their comfort level when they’re presented mixed texture foods at mealtime. Tactile tolerance also helps in every day life - it will be easier to put sunscreen on their face, clip their nails, or wash their hair when they can tolerate these types of touch. This is just one type of tactile input - dry items - and we’ll show you in upcoming posts how to transition to wet or even “gooey” textures, which helps them to tolerate multiple types of foods when eaten.
Read all about sensory processing in this post.
How do we do this in a gradual way using dry textures first? See images below for examples of each step.
Words of advice:
Do you Boo? Booing is surprising your neighbors and friends with a Halloween-themed gift and running away before you are spotted!
We were Booed earlier this week by some (unidentified) neighbors and are excited to carry on the tradition! Included in our Boo were instructions for continuing the Boo and a printable to hang on your front door that shows you’ve already been Booed from Tidy Mom - check out these printables!
For the families we are Booing, we included Target Dollar Spot gifts (socks, window clings, temporary tattoos, light up sticks, kid cups, bouncy balls, etc.), some candy and non-candy food (like name brand candy and some Made Good nut-free, dairy-free granola bars), something for the parents (Halloween-themed candles in our case), and instructions to continue Booing two additional people!
Our baskets are a little different since the families we are Boo-ing have different aged children, but you can make them generic if you don’t know whom you’re Booing! We love this Halloween tradition and the spirit it brings to our neighborhood!
Because kids grow up way too fast!
I don’t know what it is about fall and the holidays that makes me feel all crafty, except, I’m not the super artsy type. I can’t just come up with a craft on my own or make a homemade witch out of pipe cleaners and twine (serious props to the mamas who have this skill - please send me the materials and a tutorial.)
Thank goodness for Pinterest and the simple craft inspirations I find there. I don’t know who originally posted this, but it’s such a cute way to commemorate this holiday and have a record of your tots’ little feet. We did this a few years ago, and I can’t believe how small their feet were then!
This will be something I hope to hang up each year, even when I’m a grandma, to remind myself of a time when Halloween meant pure magic for my little kids. I know they won’t always be like this - eventually trick-or-treating will be uncool, and they may decide to not dress up for a few (or many) years. Hopefully they’ll inherit my Halloween obsession and will always think costumes are cool though!
Don’t get caught up in what you are or aren’t doing to celebrate with your kids this season. No need to pressure yourself to turn into "Perfect Mom" - it just doesn’t exist. Just carving a pumpkin together can be such an incredible memory for your whole family, and for many families it’s plenty of celebrating.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do a craft, do something like this - it just takes some non-toxic orange and white tempera paint, a sharpie, and a small canvas. Simply paint the canvas and let it dry. Then, put some white washable paint on your little ones’ feet and make the ghosts (this is the hard part - protect your floor!) and let it dry. Finish it off by using a sharpie for their eyes and words!
Don’t forget to date it on the back! One day, you’ll smile looking at those little ghost feet!
A great snack for kids and adults to enjoy.
It may be October, but it’s still hot in much of the world and smoothies are A-OK year round! We love featuring these each year because they’re tasty and appropriate for many allergy families too! (We aren’t dairy-free but know many of our followers are for various reasons!)
We found these fun glass Halloween milk bottles at Target again this year in the dollar spot! Worried about glass? Tuck the milk bottle in a sock before serving! It’s great to get toddlers used to handling glass (with assistance) so they can safely drink from it as they get older.
Each recipe makes about 2 cups of smoothie, but the glass bottles fit about 3/4 cup liquid each. Make them with your kids this month for a fun Halloween-themed drink that's tasty and satisfying!
Scary Berry Ingredients:
Sweet Pumpkin Spice Ingredients:
Green Goblin Ingredients:
For all recipes - throw all ingredients (liquid first) in a high powered blender like Vitamix. Blend until smooth and serve. Enjoy!
Delicious, festive pumpkin cookies!
I have always loved to bake. I started making cookies for friends and family in high school, and along the way I discovered this super simple combo: 1 can of pumpkin, 1 box of cake mix, 1 bag chocolate chips. Fortunately, I eventually learned about cake mixes with some pretty simple ingredients and not a lot of dyes or additives, and Immaculate Baking became my go-to cake mix for this recipe (not sponsored).
This is a cookie. It has sugar. It’s OK to have some - check out our post on sugar if you want more info. I like that Immaculate Baking mixes have sugar, flour, baking powder etc - the simple stuff! You could also use any store brand yellow or white cake mix. Or if you’re all fancy, I’m sure you could make the dry mix from scratch, but that makes it way less simple!
You can also make this recipe with spice cake mix, but I"m personally not a fan of cinnamon/pumpkin mixed with chocolate. Others are!
The best part about this recipe is that if made with Enjoy Life Foods chocolate chips, it’s dairy- and soy-free, as well as egg free if you use an allergy-friendly cake mix! It’s a cookie everyone can enjoy that doesn’t taste like a “modified” cookie. I have also tried gluten-free mixes with success for those who need it!
Here are the specifics:
Serve with milk/milk alternative of choice for dunking!
A festive and delicious recipe full of nutrients.
Even if it's still hot where you live and enjoying fall foods hasn't quite hit yet, keep in mind that pumpkin is a crazy good source of beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant and supporter of eye health! Just one tablespoon of pureed pumpkin can exceed your child's needs for vitamin A (as beta carotene) for the day.
This simple, freezable recipe is adapted from Wellness Mama and is seriously tasty!
Here's what you need:
Brown beef in a large pot. When beef is almost completely cooked, add the onions and cook until soft.
Add the pureed pumpkin, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, beans and spices. Simmer for 10 minutes until heated through. Top with cheese, sour cream/yogurt or avocado slices. Feel amazingly festive and satisfied (even if you could still cook an egg on the sidewalk).
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!