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Free Online Cooking Camp with Rachel Ray and other Food Network Stars!

Did you know eating is the most complex, physical task that children do?  Any opportunity we can give them to interact with and learn about foods helps to make the task of eating more manageable. One of our favorite ways to help kids learn about new foods is to involve them in the cooking or meal preparation process. No matter the age of the child, it is never too early, or too late, to get them involved!

From July 30 – August 14th, Rachel Ray will be hosting free, online cooking camp via Zoom. You can sign up for each 45-minute session individually, and recordings will be posted on her website after the zoom event. Classes are geared towards kids ages 8-15, but all are welcome and parents are encouraged to participate as well!

Find out more and sign up on her website

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Pull Up a Seat in the Garden

We are fully into the summer months and for many families that means flowers, vegetables, and herbs may be growing and getting harvested in your own gardens.  While you as a parent may love fruits and vegetables, it can sometimes be a struggle to teach our children that same love and appreciation especially when they struggle with food.

We want to talk about gardening as the therapeutic table we can set for our kids be it in the summer or even all year long.  Here are some helpful tips and ways to engage your kids even if you yourself are a novice gardener.

1. Plant something that encourages them to interact and touch:

Just the act of touching dirt and seeds can be a wonderful sensory experience for kids.  You can use spoons and shovels if your child has difficulty getting their hands dirty.  This is also a great time to help them learn strategies like brushing off their hands or wiping their hands off on a dry rag.  Talking about how foods grow and reading books on plants can engage their imagination and wonder around food.

These vegetables are easy to start indoors and can be transferred outside as well.  They are fast-growing and are wonderful to eat as microgreens (sprouts that are 2-3 inches tall) so you don’t have to wait a long time to use them in foods or let your children just explore them as they sprout:

Here are some easy planting videos and ways to start indoor plants with kids

Here are some books on planting and how plants grow:  

2. Plant something that encourages them to smell

Herbs are that do really well indoors and can be grown all year long or transferred to pots or into the ground in the summer. Some of our favorites to grow include:

These herbs are great for kids that are still learning about taste and may get too worried if they are encouraged to taste something they are not yet ready for.  Herbs are wonderful for smelling and then adding into foods.  You can grow these herbs, encourage your child to pick them, smell them and then help you wash and add them into meals you are cooking.  When cooking with these herbs you can once again just encourage smelling and talking about what smells fill the kitchen.  These are also great for drying and can be harvested and hung indoors for drying. Once dry, you and your child can interact and touch the herbs and explore the differences between the fresh and dry herbs.

3. Plants that can encourage them to taste:

One of the wonderful parts of gardening is exploring the taste of fruits and vegetables as they ripen.  These plants do best outdoors and can easily be harvested by your Child and washed off and explored right outside. Here are great plants that kids can taste and eat right from the plant:

Here are some easy ideas that bring the tasting kitchen to your garden:

Remember to keep it fun and praise whatever learning your child is able to do, even if it’s biting and spitting out.

Here are some fun kits to help you get started:

Understanding Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders

Are all children picky?

Many parents have been told by well-meaning professionals that they do not need to be worried about their child’s eating habits. However, it is not true that all children are picky.  Nor is it true that they will all outgrow it. Keep reading to learn more about what we know about Picky Eaters.

Parent/Caregiver Workshop

This 2-hour Workshop will teach Parents and Caregivers about the foundational skills needed for eating. Practical Strategies are discussed so Parents and Caregivers can help their children learn to have a lifelong healthy relationship with food. This Workshop will be addressing common feeding issues often seen in young children, to struggles that “picky eaters” may have, and the challenges of the “problem feeder”.

Why we don’t use the ARFID diagnosis

ARFID is a diagnosis that the American Psychiatric Association created in 2013 to replace the old diagnosis referred to as Feeding Disorder of Infancy and Early Childhood. Read more about the challenges with this new diagnosis and what diagnosis we prefer instead.

Tips for Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders

Why You May See Increased Feeding Challenges During Times of Stress or Change

When children and their families are undergoing major changes in their lives, whether this is related to stress or a positive life event, any child’s eating or feeding can be easily disrupted. Read about the 4 main issues and learn strategies to get your family back on track.

Managing Stressful Times with a Picky Eater or Problem Feeder

Learn how stress and adrenaline can wreak havoc with your child’s appetite and make mealtimes more challenging, as well as strategies to support your child and family.

Preventing Picky Eating: Strategies to help your family get back on track

This quick article outlines our first three recommendations for almost any family who comes in for a feeding assessment. Watch how these three strategies start to shift mealtimes at your home.

Valentine’s Day Strategies for Picky Eaters

Holidays can be tough on kids – keep reading to learn why and make a plan to make this holiday go a little more smoothly!

Quick Recipes with High Calories and Nutrition

Check out these fun, kid-friendly recipes for fudge and milkshakes (both with dairy-free options) that have some great nutrition and easy to consume calories!

Need New Ideas to Help Expose Your Child to New Foods?

A common concern parents share is that it can be hard to expose your child to new foods, especially if they aren’t able to eat meals at the same time with the family or if they are reluctant to even being in the same room with you if you are eating something different. Here are a few simple ideas that you can start incorporating tonight!

Great advice when introducing those first baby foods to your little one!

We found some great advice in the baby food aisle at the grocery store!

Fun with Food

Fun Food Books to Explore with your Child

Sometimes, learning about new foods during a meal is just too hard, especially if everyone is stressed. Sometimes, even getting your child to the table for meals can be hard. One way around this is to start conversations around food, separate from mealtimes (without the pressure to eat or taste it).

Pull Up a Seat in the Garden

We want to talk about gardening as the therapeutic table we can set for our kids be it in the summer or even all year long.  Here are some helpful tips and ways to engage your kids even if you yourself are a novice gardener.

Oatmeal Banana Cookies

These simple cookies come together very quickly and only require a few pantry staples – and use up those spotty bananas! This is a very kid-friendly recipe, so it is okay if the measurements aren’t exact. Make sure you try out the Food Scientist Tips at the bottom to personalize them!

Need New Ideas to Help Expose Your Child to New Foods?

A common concern parents share is that it can be hard to expose your child to new foods, especially if they aren’t able to eat meals at the same time with the family or if they are reluctant to even being in the same room with you if you are eating something different. Here are a few simple ideas that you can start incorporating tonight!

How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Keep reading for some fun food ideas with a rainbow theme!

Winter Fun in Food School!

Have you ever wondered what feeding therapy using the SOS Approach to Feeding looks like? Take a peek at some of our sessions this week.

Fall Fun with Apples (and Pears!)

Check out this article with some great ideas to introduce your child to apples and pears.

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Preventing Picky Eating: Strategies to help your family get back on track

1. Create the Right Environment

Make sure you have a regular-sized kitchen table and supportive chairs versus sitting at a breakfast bar, a tall top table, or on a bench. WHY? In the body’s list of priorities, not falling on your head (Postural Stability) is priority #2. In case you were curious, priority #1 is breathing. Eating is the body’s priority #3. Bar stools and benches do not provide children with good enough side and foot support. A supportive chair is one that puts your child’s hips, knees and ankles each at a 90 degree angle. To do this correctly, the chair should have:

Postural stability is what allows our trunk to be stable while other parts of our body move to do a motor task. Related to mealtimes, we need to be able to have enough endurance and strength to maintain a stable seated position for the entire duration of the meal.

2. Do Family-Style Serving at All Meals & Snacks

Make one big meal for the family that includes everyone’s foods, and serve everything family style. Family style serving means that everyone takes at least one piece of every food served at the meal, puts it on their plate, and passes the serving dish to the next person at the table.

For example, you may be having spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread as the main meal. However, your child will only eat the garlic bread. In order to give them good nutrition, you may also need to make chicken nuggets and offer thin carrot sticks (the rest of the carrots can be chopped up into the salad). All of the foods will be passed family-style, so there is no differentiation between the ‘kid’ food and the ‘adult’ food.

Your child may not eat some of the family’s foods at first, and that is okay. The goal is for your child to start learning about the other foods. Learning to eat new foods begins with being able to tolerate looking at and smelling the food in front of you. Then, the child needs to learn about how the food feels by touching it with a utensil or their fingers. It is only after being okay with looking at, smelling, and touching the food, that they will be able to learn about tasting the new food.

3. Avoid Food Jags

A food jag is when your child wants to eat the same exact food, prepared the same exact way, over and over again. The problem with food jags is that your child will eventually get sick and tired of that food. Once children start “burning out” on foods, their food range gets smaller and smaller. This is how children eventually end up with only 10 foods that they will eat.

To avoid food jags, a child is allowed to have their perfect version of a food only every other day. If you give them a food today, they can’t have it again today and not tomorrow either. They can only have it again the day after tomorrow. Milk and milk alternatives are the only exceptions to this rule. However, some children do burn out on milk, so we advise offering either water or juice at one meal a day.

If you are struggling with implementing any of these strategies, join us at the Picky Eater or Problem Feeder Membership Level for more support.

Ask Dr. Toomey:

I have heard from a number of other people, including healthcare professionals, that all children are picky, and that they all outgrow it.  Is this true?

In my role as a Pediatric Psychologist, Pediatric Feeding Specialist and Developer of the SOS Approach to Feeding, I have heard this “myth” being reported frequently by well-meaning professionals trying to convince parents that they do not need to be worried about their child’s eating habits. However, it is not true that all children are picky. Nor is it true that they will all outgrow it. The research in the field of Feeding Disorders actually shows that on average, only 20-30% of children will struggle with some type of feeding challenge or picky eating at some point within their first 5-6 years of life. In addition, the data indicates only about one-third to one-half of these children will actually just “outgrow” their feeding difficulties without some type of intervention (see the summary of the major research studies summaries). When you look at the statistics over time, about 50% of children with picky eating challenges continue to struggle with not eating a wide enough range of foods well into their grade school years and beyond.

It is also interesting to note that these statistics are the same regardless of the child’s country of origin, culture and/or parenting practices. I have been privileged to teach the SOS Approach to Feeding program both nationally and internationally and can attest to seeing the same types of feeding issues occurring in children across the entire world. I believe that we find similar feeding/eating challenges around the world, regardless of what culture a child lives in because feeding difficulties are about how the human body does or does not work correctly. My 30 years of clinical experience in assessing and treating Feeding Disorders has taught me that feeding problems are not all in children’s heads. It’s all in their bodies. When a child doesn’t eat, we need to look for the skill deficits, developmental challenges and physical problems underlying this child’s difficulty with eating or feeding well. We should not be blaming parents or saying that a child has a behavioral feeding problem.

In the SOS Approach to Feeding program, we assess and address the 7 areas of human functioning that are involved in the process of learning to eat well: organ systems; motor & oral motor abilities; sensory processing; learning history/style/capacity, development, nutrition, and environmental factors. We identify what about this child’s body is not working correctly for them to gain the skills they need to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods in the right volumes to grow well. Then, we teach children and their families, the skills the child needs through “play with a purpose” of moving them up a series of 32 Steps to Eating.

Because of the research which shows that at least half of the children with feeding problems will continue to struggle with being able to eat well, I encourage all families not to wait to seek out help for their child – even if you think it is “just picky eating”. The earlier families can get their child into feeding treatment, the more likely their child’s issues can be fully resolved. Ideally, children will enter into therapy before 3 years of age if they are struggling to eat well.

Download an Overview of the Research

If you are wondering if your child could benefit from feeding therapy, the following articles may be helpful for you.

Additionally, you can search and find an SOS trained feeding therapist in your area to assess your child’s skills and help get back on the road to happy mealtimes.

 

Looking for more ideas?

Join us at a membership level for more support and strategies.

Parent & Caregiver Memberships
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