Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eating/Feeding Milestones for Babies and Toddlers

I probably should have written this post years ago, as a resource for parents, but I have to admit I've been a bit hesitant.  Each child develops so uniquely and just because they may be late hitting a milestone, it doesn't necessarily mean there is cause for alarm.  For various reasons, it isn't unusual for a child to be a little late with mastering a new skill.  I would encourage you not to use this as a checklist, but as a guide for what types of things you should be looking for your child to be doing next.  I will be going over all areas of feeding, from when your bambino should be feeding themselves, to how and when they should be chewing foods.  These milestones are based on my education and professional opinion as a pediatric occupational therapist. Please remember that if your child was born prematurely or has a diagnosis, these milestones are likely to be later.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mealtime Rules: Yea, Nay, or Maybe?

I often have people ask me about the mealtime "rules" they have heard about or their 
friends use. What should they follow and what should they not? It can be difficult to navigate with so much different advice flying around.  As a pediatric OT that specializes in feeding, I want to throw my two cents into the pot and share with you the yea's, nay's, and maybe's.

My hope is that parents or caregivers can have feedback on these popular rules if they aren't sure what direction to go in or if what they are doing isn't working.  Moreover, if your child is a problem feeder or a picky eater than some of these rules may actually do more harm than good. Unfortunately, parents of these kiddos are often desperately looking for advice (understandably so) and lots of friends and family dispense what works for their kids, which adds a lot of pressure to stressed parents.  I really want to eliminate that! With that being said, I'm not going to address all of the manner type rules (i.e. put your napkin in your lap, chew with your mouth closed, etc.), unless I think they could negatively impact eating. I will also not be sharing all of MY basic mealtime rules. If you are interested in that you can click here or under Eating Basics in the menu bar.

Let's get started! For each "rule", I'll be giving a rating of Yea, Nay, or Maybe and of course a full explanation of why I feel that way from a feeding therapist and mom perspective. One quick disclaimer, I know some of you may have already implemented one or more of the "rules" that I may be "naying". Please know that I respect your parenting choices and I realize that it may work for your family. In that case, I support what you are doing, but please understand that it may not work for someone else. I encourage productive and constructive comments about the rules your family uses. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: {101 Kids Activities}

Disclosure: A copy of the book being reviewed was given to me at no cost. However, no agreement was made prior to this post about the opinion I would share. The opinion you read here is completely my own and is not influenced by any other party. This post also contains affiliate links for your convenience.  

I have to admit that I jumped at the opportunity to review this book.  I love Holly and Rachel's blog, Kids Activities Blog, because of the plethora of well, kid's activities.  Their activities are often easy to pull together and give kids the simple kind of fun they are really looking for.  Needless to say,I couldn't wait to get my hands on their first book, which was released in June.  Not surprisingly, I wasn't disappointed.

Click to download full instructions:  Fizzing Sidewalk Paint

The book is organized into 4 different categories of kids activities and each page clearly lays out the instructions in an easy to read format.  Many of the activities are accompanied by pictures or drawings (a thank you from all the visual learners).  My favorite feature though is they have listed a way to make each activity easier or harder so that you can easily adapt it to a variety of kids, which many of us are often doing.  As an OT, this is something I'm trained in, but it was nice to not have to think about it!

As I started to flip through the pages, I began to sticky note pages and soon realized most of the pages were marked. There are so many activities in this book that my kids will just love AND so many that promote development, even speech and eating! That's right, you had to know I was going to go there.  Obviously, I'm always looking at activities through this lens and was pleased to see loads of sensory activities, even though they may not present that way.  An awesome example is the picture above, which is taken from the book. The girls were nice enough to share these instructions with you as well.

Click to download the full instructions:  Sticky-Note Pom-pom Maze

Beyond sensory activities, which of course can have a big affect on your kid's eating (if I've lost you click here and here), I was thrilled to see oral-motor activities as shown in the picture above.  (Oral-motor refers to the strength and coordination of the muscles in our mouth.) Some kids with speech delays and "picky" eaters have poor oral-motor skills.  This activity is awesome for a variety of reasons, but what I see is a fun innovative way for kids to work the muscles needed for eating and speech. Straw drinking and blowing activities are one of the best ways to promote this.  Moreover, blowing through a straw provides loads of calming/organizing sensory input and is a great activity to have as part of a sensory diet.  There is more than one straw blowing activity in the book!

Besides the activities I tabbed that specifically addressed sensory processing and oral-motor skills, every other activity promoted dynamic, hands-on learning.  I am so glad that I have this as a fixture on my book shelf.  

Here is an amazon (affiliate) link to this awesome book: 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: The Entertainment Solution for Parents, Relatives & Babysitters!

Want a chance to win a copy? Click through and enter by July 15: a Rafflecopter giveaway

The photos used in this post are from 101 Kids Activities by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller, printed with permission of Page Street Publishing June 2014"

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Turning My Picky Eater Around: An Easy to Follow Plan

It has been a while since I've talked about my second son, Isaac, and his own difficulties with eating. Some of you may remember the numerous Cooking with Your Kid posts where I talked about strategies I used with him. Or, the post I wrote, Practicing Patience, a more personal account describing the sheer frustration I felt as a mother trying to help my kid eat.  As an OT, I know that any child's eating has peaks and valleys, but sometimes the valleys can be a slippery slope into major regression.  *Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

We are definitely in a valley with Isaac now, with a few red flags of regression. I can't say I'm surprised. The last 4 months were challenging in my house, as I was extremely sick with my third pregnancy. I was barely functioning and our whole routine was thrown up in the air.  We My husband did his best to keep up with all of our usual feeding strategies, but combined with the shake up in Isaac's routine, he started refusing some of his favorite foods like rice and grapes. Not only did I see him refusing them, but when he tried to eat there were shutters and obvious discomfort.  Those are some of the red flags I was talking about. I knew we were going to have to regroup and come at the this with a strong plan in mind so that he didn't slip any further back.

I also have to admit that in the last year I've gotten lazy about some strategies that I know work, even before I was sick, which is why we may have been in a valley in the first place. Yes, I wished he was eating more foods, but he was doing decently and I had become comfortable enough with what he was eating.

Now that I'm feeling better and we are back to our regular routine, I really want to get him eating as well as possible, especially before the huge change of a new baby.  I thought it would be helpful to show all of you my line of thought as a therapist, but how this is going to work as a mom.  I often share one strategy at a time, but wanted to give you guys the big picture with all of the steps in one place so you can pull together a plan that works for you and your child. You will find highlighted links throughout to give you more information on topics I've written about in the past.

I am grateful to FunBites for partnering with me to bring you "My Treatment Plan". It's a perfect fit because FunBites also believes in helping children eat more nutritious and varied foods. They actually designed the cutter to help their daughter get over her picky eating. Click here and here for past reviews of FunBites and coupons. I'll be talking more specifically about how I'll be using FunBites as one of the strategies in my big plan in a few minutes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gardening with Kids: Improve Your Kid's Eating!

I love gardening! Admittedly, I'm not that good at it and still have a lot to learn, but for most of the last 8 summers, we have had some type of garden.  If you have never given it a shot, it is seriously one of the most satisfying and rewarding hobbies you can get into.  Of course, that isn't the reason I'm writing about it here.  This has been on my "to-write" list for two years and every spring comes and goes before I get it together.  While May might be a little late for a post on gardening with your kids, you still have lots of time to get organized and get planting. 

Besides my own passion for eating fruits and veggies that are fresh and pesticide free, gardening is great for kids, especially the elusive picky eater! If you follow along here, you know that I talk a lot about keeping mealtimes and experiences with foods positive. Gardening is one of the best ways to do that.  The pressure to eat is off, but the kids are working and interacting with the food, much in the same way cooking with them does (click here for more on cooking with kids).  More than that though, they become committed to it. They are invested from even the earliest of ages, as they run to their garden or pots to check on growth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Overcoming Picky Eating: {30+ Strategies, Tips, and Ideas}

Woohoo, it is Your Kid's Table 2nd Blogiversary! Admittedly, I am a little late with this. I technically had my first post go live on April 10th 2012, but things have been a little hectic around here- more so than usual. I'm excited to share with all of you regulars that we are expecting our third baby this September.  As with my other two pregnancy's I've been painfully sick up until recently! This should be exciting news for those of you with wee ones as well, because I will surely be inspired to be bringing more baby/toddler related posts and recipes.

It is hard to believe that two years has passed. I am so grateful for those of you that have found your way here and followed along.  Your kind comments and participation here and on facebook and pinterest is truly appreciated.  I have some big plans for the next year and more ideas than ever to share with you.  Stay tuned I'm hoping for some big announcements!

Of course, I've been reminiscing a bit about everything that I've written here and what Your Kid's Table has evolved to be today. It dawned on me that I've never pulled all of the picky eating posts together for you in one place.  Well, other than the article index in the menu bar up there, which I created for my one year anniversary and includes ALL of the articles I've ever posted.  This year I thought it might be helpful if I organized all 33 of the picky eater articles, put them into different categories, and gave them some descriptions, when necessary.   The categories and individual articles are also listed in order of importance. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Helps Constipation in Kids?

Constipation has been an issue in my house for last 3.5 years.  It is a huge thorn in my side and frustrates me often.  As an OT that specializes in feeding, I knew well about constipation and the affects it can have on a child's eating habits.  I know more than the basics to help with constipation, which I will share here, but in my case it wasn't enough. I had to dig deeper.  I am not a nutritionist and don't specialize in this per say, but wanted to share what I have learned so that it might help you.

To make a long story short, Sam, who is 4.5, began to have difficulty going regularly after transitioning to cow's milk from breast milk.  At its worst, he had sharp referral pain in his back, which was frightening.  At that time, we put him on Polyethylene Glycol (PEG for short, or Miralax as you likely know it) an over-the-counter stool softener.  He was on it daily until about 6 months ago when I started to realize he wasn't growing out of this.  I wasn't sure I wanted to keep him on it indefinitely and couldn't believe that much time had passed with daily use. Although the doctors assured me that it was totally safe, after more than 2 years I decided to do some of my own research - not sure why it took me that long. I was shocked to learn that although no major incidents or side effects have been reported, it has never been approved by the FDA for use in kids or for use on a long-term basis.  Miralax and I assume other stool softners are not absorbed into the body, but keep water with the bowel as it is being digested, thus freeing a child of constipation.

Please know that my intent here is not to attack Miralax, for some kids it is necessary and at times it has been a miracle for us. BUT - I couldn't help wondering, aren't there other solutions, especially when this is a long term problem?  So let's get to it...  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tips for Picky Eaters: {Serving Meals Family Style}

Want to get your picky eater eating healthy meals or even just more foods?  I know, the answer is obvious, but the solution isn't necessarily simple.  As I have written many posts that address the heavy burden of picky eaters/problem feeders, there are many strategies that can be helpful and many that are nearly necessary to make progress.  Today's tip, however, is simple and will be helpful no matter where you are in improving your kid's eating: Serve meals family style.  Years ago, when I took a feeding course called SOS approach to Feeding by Kay Toomey, this is one of the strategies they covered to improve eating. At the time, I didn't have kids of my own and although I believed them I was a bit concerned about how the families I worked with would receive this.  As I now know, meal time can be hectic and often the last thing anyone wants to do is make more dishes or take the time to get all the food on the table instead of just serving it from the stove. Please see the Article Index and Basic Strategies to Improve Eating in the menu bar for much more on picky eating.

Well, fortunately, they did sell me on it - I'll get to why in a few minutes - and I did recommend it to families, some of which followed through with success.  Lately, as I've been consulting with parents, it happened to be discussed in more detail and I was pleasantly surprised to see how big of an impact it had on some very selective eaters. Needless to say, I decided it was high time that this nugget of information got some billing of it's own because I may have underestimated the value of family style eating a bit. More importantly, I want all of you to have this as a tool to use to get your kids eating more foods.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sensory Diet Tool: {Senseez Review}

I am excited to share a fun and affordable sensory tool with you today- Senseez. I contacted them a few months ago about writing a review because as an occupational therapist it seemed like something that might help some of the families I work with. Particularly, kids with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and/or sensory processing difficulties.  However, as an OT I know the powerful sensory input that vibration can give and may benefit an even wider group then the one I just listed. Senseez has also generously given a coupon to Your Kid's Table, which is at the end of this post. 

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Senseez for writing a non-biased review. I have not received any payments from Senseez for this post. All opinions are my own.

What is a Senseez?

Senseez is a durable vinyl pillow that vibrates with pressure from hugging it, sitting on it, or standing on it. It was developed by a mom and dad team that needed a portable vibrating pad to help their son sit and attend to activities longer- awesome, right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Toddler/Preschooler Portion Sizes

Parent's frequently ask me how much their child needs to be eating. Parents get nervous that their child may not be getting the nutrition they need or enough calories to grow. As an OT, I follow some general guidelines, but am not an expert on nutrition.  I was thrilled when today's  guest blogger and soon-to-be-dietitian Amelia Sherry, of, agreed to help us out with a thorough and practical explanation. Amelia explains why—and how to support your kids’ natural know-how for perfecting portion sizes. Believe it or not, most toddlers know more about how much they should eat than any pediatrician or nutritionist.  

4 Keys to Perfecting Portion Sizes!

Throughout my pregnancy, there was one thing I really wanted to ace as a mom: Breastfeeding. To be sure I got it right, I read every book recommended to me, quizzed every mom brave enough to answer my questions, and even enrolled in a three-hour class (including demonstrations!) on the topic. If you asked me about breastfeeding the day before my daughter Isla was born, I would have arrogantly rattled off a dissertation on the holding positions, timing, and feeding techniques recommended for success. If you asked me about it in the minutes following her birth, I would have timidly realized that I knew nothing. A hands-on, crash-course lesson was coming my way though- and it wasn't a nurse, lactation, consultant, or pediatrician who taught it. It was Isla.

Like most new parents, in the moments following birth I was nothing but thunderstruck by the sight of my infant daughter. When the nurse handed her to me to the last thing on my mind was getting her into the recommended feeding position, never mind remembering exactly what that was. Fortunately, as I sat there gawking this tiny little stranger turned her face towards me, attached her mouth to my nipple, and very casually began to suckle. I was amazed by her intelligence: Less than a half-hour old and Isla knew she needed to feed—to nourish herself—better than any scientist who’d been studying the subject for years, and most definitely better than me. Today, at two and half years old, I’d argue that in some respects she still does.