Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Children's Books to Help with Picky Eating

Picky eating is often a complicated problem that could potentially have many layers to it. I don't expect a children's book to solve your child's issues around food, but having the "right" book gives you the opportunity to talk about food in a positive way that is meaningful to kids. Maybe this will give your kid the motivation they need to try something new?  I also like the idea of building off of some of the foods in the book. For example, if the book you are reading is talking a lot about blueberries, then I would get some blueberries and have your child help you prepare a recipe using them. Or, create a little snack that mimics the story in some way, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate. When it is time to sit down and eat, you can remind them of the book and the story line to help bring it all together for them.   

Please know that I have been very selective about the books in this list.  I had a few favorites that I've used in therapy, but then did research beyond that for this post.  I took a boat load of children's books out of the library about food or picky eating and my kids and I previewed them. Some of the books my kids liked, but I didn't because of the underlying message they were sending. I'm not going to name names, but most any book that started off with the message, "I hate ______", or other strongly negative language about food was left off this list, with an exception or two.  I did this because even though the end message has the character ultimately embracing the food, I don't like putting ideas in kid's heads.  In my house, we have mostly been able to avoid them using language like, "I don't like________," because I have been very conscientious about framing the way we talk about food in a different way. 

Without further ado, here are my favorite books to help develop healthy eating habits (Please note this post contains affiliate links for your convenience):

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Picky Eating Solutions: A Mother's Testimony

I am tremendously grateful to Marissa, awesome mom and elementary school teacher, for writing this post I am sharing with you today. Marissa is not a blogger, nor does she have any marketing connections that she is trying to promote. She wrote this post because she wanted to help other parents that were struggling with their kids eating. As you will read, her son Reed, had difficulty transitioning onto table foods. I started working with Reed and his family when he was a little over one year old. Marissa and her husband were completely receptive to all the strategies I recommended and worked hard to follow through on them - not an easy task, I know. The commitment they made to be consistent and patient with Reed over the next 9 months yielded amazing results. I'm thrilled that she was willing to share their story and it is my hope that it inspires you to take a deep breath, know that you are not alone, and persevere with the strategies you read about here at Your Kid's Table!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Ideas for Unique Sensory Play in the Kitchen

I am grateful to Ilana for guest posting today at Your Kid's Table while I'm on maternity leave with number 3. She works over at Fun and Function and is a physical therapist. She has some unique and fun sensory play ideas that you can do - easily - with your kids in the kitchen! Plus, you will find a coupon code and some product recommendations at the end of the post.

Most of us spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen, yet we don’t often think of it as a place for improving sensory integration, the ability to process and integrate incoming sensory information. For children with sensory challenges, the kitchen, can in fact, be a wonderland for a sensory motor workout. The smells, sounds, and tactile substances can provide just the integration therapy that your child needs. Take a look at some     sensory-fun activities that your child can do right in your own kitchen:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Help for Picky Eaters: Using Dips

I have been remiss in not sharing with you this very valuable tool in helping picky eaters and problem feeders eat a larger variety of foods. Incorporating dips into your child's meal could make a huge difference, especially when used in combination with other strategies such as expanding on what they are already eating, playing with their food, and cooking together.  

I often hear one of two responses when I first recommend using dips to parents. They either say, "Oh my child loves ketchup, I never thought of trying anything else," or even more often, "They hate dips and would never try them."  Let me quickly address both points. First, if your child has a dip or two that they really enjoy, then chances are they will like more. In most cases, they stick with the same family of tastes. Meaning, if your child likes and responds well to salty dips like ketchup, then they may also enjoy a mild barbecue sauce.  Offering them a choice will also empower them at a meal and that is a good thing. I would also say, don't be afraid to have your child dip foods together that are unconventional.  It doesn't matter if he wants to put carrots in ketchup. Be careful to be positive about anything new they try even if it seems odd to you.

If you fall into the second camp and think your child will never try dips, don't be so sure. I have worked with a variety of families who have taken this stance and their child ends up eating lots of new foods with the help of a dip.  Of course, it will take some time to get there and some specific strategies will have to be employed to help teach your child to be open to using dips, which of course I'm going to share with you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Feeding Baby: {Book Review}

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.  

"If the child is still refusing a food after 2-3 exposures, the parent gives up and accepts a picky eater. I hope this book will empower you to take a different approach." Excerpt from Feeding Baby
I try not to review too many books or toys here at Your Kid's Table and when I have in the past it has always been a product that I felt would truly benefit my audience.  The book I'm reviewing today is no exception and I would even say it is the most excited I've ever been to share a product or book with all of you! Feeding Baby: Simple Approaches to Raising a Healthy Baby and Creating a Lifetime of Nutritious Eating by Clancy Cash Harrison is a fantastic, parent-friendly resource that covers everything an expecting or new mom needs to know to set there child on a course for healthy eating.  It was a total treat for me to read this book and I agree with virtually everything she suggested in terms of avoiding picky eating and naturally creating healthy eating habits that will last a life time. I am utterly impressed with Clancy's clear and easy to follow tips.  You will be familiar with some of those tips if you spent anytime reading here, but Feeding Baby has so much more as well.  She has a chapter devoted to nutrition, which as an OT isn't the heart of my training so I'm very happy to have it as a personal resource. Plus, there are dozens of wonderful nutritious recipes that are perfect for baby - and the rest of the family too! Clancy has also been generous enough to share a chart from the book and she put together an awesome giveaway that includes a Vitamix and many other prizes! You can find the links for these at the end of the post!

As I'm expecting my third baby, this book has personally come at the perfect time.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so excited about the thought of feeding him and took careful consideration about my diet throughout pregnancy and nursing.  After all, I had been working with other people's babies for years, helping them learn to eat.  When the time came, I made homemade baby food and he did wonderfully transitioning to food. Although his eating hasn't always been perfect, now at nearly 5 years old, I'm so pleased with his healthy relationship with food and the wide variety of foods he has in his diet.

"A child's decision to eat or try a new food depends on her sensory perception of the food. If a child does not like the way it smells, feels, or looks, she will probably not taste it until the food becomes more familiar to her." Excerpt from Feeding Baby

My experience with my second child was completely different, as many of you regular followers know. I had a very difficult pregnancy with lots of stomach issues that drastically reduced my diet to peanut butter, watermelon, carbs, and (I hate to admit it) lots of sweets.  Well, guess what, my newly turned 3 year old child loves...  yup you guessed it, peanut butter, watermelon, carbs, and sweets.  Clancy talks a lot about how what we eat while pregnant affects our children's palate, which she backs up with research. Isaac's issues are a little more complicated, as he has some sensory processing difficulties that he inherited from his father, but my diet undeniably played a role. 

I should also mention that although this book is packed with awesome, sound strategies to avoid picky eating, that I wholeheartedly agree with, it isn't guaranteed. You could follow all of this exactly, but if your child has an underlying medical, oral-motor, or sensory processing issue, eating a wide variety of foods may still be challenging. However, all of these tips will completely support your child for the best eating possible no matter what the situation is, but additional interventions from trained professionals will likely be needed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trying NEW Foods with Kids and Picky Eaters


I felt inspired to type this post up today after my picky eater easily and readily ate spinach on his grilled cheese. I was surprised by how well it went myself, and really wanted to share it with all of you since so many of you find your way here looking for ways to get new foods into your kid's diet. Spinach is something that both my boys struggle with, even my 4.5 year old who eats a large variety of foods.  But, the point really isn't the spinach, although I'm going to share the idea/recipe that worked here today. What I am really hoping you will be able to get out of this post is how to apply these strategies to a variety of foods through the specific example I'm sharing.  So, here is the plan: First, I am going to go over exactly what happened today to make spinach successful for my kids, and second, I will outline the strategies that can be applied to a variety of situations for trying new foods.  Lastly, I have a surprise giveaway at the end!

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.