Can you believe that we are already nearing the end of the year?! We can’t either! As we get closer to the end of the year, with that comes the holidays. And many of them! Halloween is right around the corner, and we also have many holidays in November and December. These holidays can provide great opportunities for kids to explore and learn about new foods. There are many fun play ideas that go around the various holidays, and lots of fun foods to explore, too!
Before we dive into how to help your child learn about new foods, we need to review the Steps to Eating Hierarchy’s six major steps, because eating does not begin at the mouth. First, we must tolerate the physical presence or the look of the food. This might even include just being in the same room as the food. Then, perhaps, we can interact with the food without directly touching the food to your skin, maybe by using a kitchen utensil like a mini food chopper or a fork. Next, our body needs to process and manage the smell or odor of a food. The play then expands to include touching the food with your fingers, hands, body, and mouth. Think about that baby first learning to eat! Tasting comes next, which might look like quickly poking the food with the tip of your tongue, or maybe putting the food in your mouth, and spitting it out. Finally, we are ready to practice chewing and swallowing.In therapy, we have been creating all sorts of Halloween costumes out of food—things that you can do at home with your little one, too! Just yesterday, one of our therapists made masks out of all different types of food. She used cookie cutters to cut holes into sliced American cheese, placed them on their face like a mask, and they pretended like they were Elastigirl from the Incredibles (what the little girl is dressing up as for Halloween with her family). With another child, they used chocolate pudding to paint on their face, and pretended like they were raccoons! This therapist also had another little one that wasn’t ready to touch the food to her face yet. So, she did work at the lower levels on the Steps to Eating Hierarchy. This child was going to be a Poppy from Trolls, so they painted their fingernails with strawberry yogurt to help “make her costume”.
The grocery store can be filled with all sorts of neat holiday-themed food. It is a great time to learn about new foods! Check out this food one of our families found! They found it at the grocery store and brought it into therapy. It is called Buddha’s Hand, and it is one of the oldest citrus fruits! The grocery store advertised it as a “Halloween food”, and I am sure you can see why! We learned about it in therapy by studying the physical properties of the food. Then we did a quick internet search and figured out people use it like lemon zest, so we had fun with the cheese grater! We sprinkled it on top of this child’s favorite yogurt to change up the flavor a bit. The child’s older sibling then found a recipe to turn the fruit into jelly, which he made with his mother at home after the session.
Be sure to explore all of the different foods the grocery stores have to offer around this time of year! Does your child eat Veggie Chips? Check out these seasonal Veggie Chips that are shaped like bats and ghosts! Your child may look at them and say they are different. However, turn it into a learning experience! Compare them with their original Veggie Chips. Show them how they are the same color, but a different shape. Talk about how they may smell and feel the same. Do an experiment to lick both of them, and see if they taste the same. You can do the same experiment with the Winter Oreos (red filling, but tastes the same as regular Oreos). See if your child can spot the similarities and differences between the winter Oreos and the regular Oreos.
This holiday season, be sure to not just do your regular route around the store (or buy your usual foods online). Involve your child in the shopping, and explore all of the different foods that they have to offer during this holiday season. Who knows what new favorite you might find!
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