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Winter Fun in Food School!

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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. There seemed to be a ‘snowman’ theme, but each session was individualized and totally different depending on the child’s interests, comfort with different foods, and their goals.

This child was working at the lower steps on the Steps to Eating, especially with fruits and vegetables. As we built the snowman, we learned about each of the circles (Cutie orange, prune, and cucumber) and had to do some cutting. We explored how it smelled and felt, and sometimes used a mini cocktail fork to move the extra squishy pieces, since those are the most difficult for this child. This allowed a child who typically can’t stay at the table during meals with his family to not only create this snowman, but have fun while doing it!

To round out the foods we learned about, we explored crunchy chickpeas (a great, crunchy protein that is easier to chew than meat) and used them to make the snowman’s face and crushed them into powder to make it ‘snow’ on him. Cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds added another new protein (which worked great for him – he ended up holding them in his mouth to ‘blow’ into the clean up bowl!). We broke apart his favorite pancakes to make arms and a hat, and then used our carrot stick like a snowplow to clear everything before moving on to our drink and clean up!

This friend was a little older and was eager to build on the “same but different” theme we have been using to help her anticipate what we will be working on in Food School. Earlier we had made a face to ‘decorate’ her rice cake, using several foods that she already eats, but doesn’t eat combined. During the session, we were talking about other foods she prefers ‘plain’, and decided to ‘decorate’ a pizza in a similar way.

She helped her mom pick out the groceries she needed for her special pizza, including pizza dough, three different sauces (tomato, alfredo, and pesto), olives, pepperoni, mini bell peppers, and mushrooms. Best of all, a few of these foods were totally new to her, and the familiar foods are usually eaten separately (and not touching!).

She decided to make her snowman look like her, and rolled her dough into a circle to make the face. She then used the ‘white food glue’ (alfredo sauce) to hold all of the toppings on. Olives required some cutting, but made great ‘rocks’ for the eyes and mouth, and half of a mini bell pepper made a great carrot nose. She used kitchen scissors to cut the pepperoni into ‘hair’ so that it looked like her, then added cheese ‘snow’. It was just about perfect, but she realized the snowman was missing freckles! Her mom remembered that they had picked out mushrooms at the store, but mushrooms were a hard food to think about adding to pizza! In the end, we used a mini food chopper to finely chop one mushroom, then it was gently sprinkled on top, and then the snowman was ready for the oven!

As perfect as it looked going into the oven, the pizza dough rose more than we expected, so when it came out, it looked pretty different. Not knowing what to expect can be tricky, so it took some learning about the cooked pizza. Excitedly, the snowman pizza (complete with mushroom freckles) worked for this “plain cheese pizza girl!”

Another food school friend was working on feeling comfortable tasting new foods by blowing “rockets”, and this snowman (made from an empty coffee canister) made the perfect target. He also needed to work on his oral motor skills, so practicing getting food out of his mouth was important for both his confidence and safety. Children who are able to blow or spit food out of their mouths are less likely to gag or choke on food, and it is also important for other life skills, like tooth brushing.

This boy was excited to have a new target, and blow “snowballs” at the snowman. Since we were working on blowing, most of our foods were small, ball-shaped foods like frozen peas and blueberries (perfect for this snowy theme!), Love Grown Power O’s (cereal made from beans), American cheese rolled into small balls, and a protein bar cut into small pieces.

We started out with the target close to us, and practiced dropping the pieces of food out of our mouth, letting gravity do most of the work, then progressed to taking a big breath and making a ‘pooh’ sound as we exhaled to make our rocket shoot farther and farther. This guy was disappointed when it was time to clean up, and his parents were thrilled at the variety of foods that he was so excitedly putting into his mouth!

My last friend was also working on making pizza using a “same but different” theme. He also only really eats pepperoni pizza from a few takeout restaurants, so his family was excited about the idea of making homemade pizzas.

Figuring out how to roll out the pizza dough was tricky, but with some teamwork, we made it work! While we learned about the variety of sauces, toppings, and types of cheese to put on the pizza, he happily added them to his snowman creation. He eagerly added both pesto and pizza sauce to his dough, then topped it with a little bit of cheese and used pepperoni for the eyes and mouth.

While he loves ham sandwiches, he doesn’t typically eat ham another way, but today we had some ham and chopped it up with food scissors to make hair for his pizza snowman. He also chose to use a mini bell pepper to make a ‘carrot’ nose, then his pizza was off to the oven.

After a quick break to re-regulate from touching and interacting with all of those wet foods, his pizza was out of the oven and cool enough to learn about.

He proudly carried his pizza to the table (in his bare hands, without the pan) to set on the table, then proceeded to immediately ask for help cutting his pizza so he could eat it! His mother and I asked if we could have a piece to learn about as well, and he said “Okay, but only a little… This is going to be my dinner!”.

A message from his mom, later on, revealed that he did, in fact, eat several more pieces of his pizza for dinner that night.

Learning about new foods can, and should be FUN! That’s why we hear all of the time that the kids we see using the SOS Approach to Feeding can’t wait for Food School, and us therapists laugh and have fun all day long. Find an SOS trained feeding therapist near you to join in on the fun, or join at a membership level for access to more strategies to help you start to think like a feeding therapist. Hopefully, this inspires you to make your next meal with a picky eater a little more playful and fun.


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