5 Playful Ideas to Try When Presenting a New Food to a Child with a Limited Diet
Heather Celkis, OTR/ Capital Area Speech & Occupational Therapy www.capitalareaspeech.com
Reasons Tolerating New Food is Difficult
There are many reasons a child may have difficulty tolerating new foods. These reasons may include but are not limited to difficulty swallowing, difficulty moving the food efficiently within the mouth (oral motor skills), gastrointestinal issues, swallowing difficulties, poor postural control, respiratory difficulties and poor sensory processing. A child who has a very limited diet should be assessed by his or her pediatrician and referred for further testing by a specialist and/or therapy by a professional such as an occupational therapist or speech therapist. It is important to rule out medical issues that may impact a child’s ability to eat.
Steps to Introducing New Foods
For many children with difficulty with sensory processing and tolerating novelty, the first step to trying a new food is interacting with it, tolerating it on a plate, smelling and playing with it. Yes! We should be encouraging these kids to play with their food!
The following are a few helpful and playful ideas for introducing new foods:
- Place just a few bites of food on the plate. If the child has a whole plateful of novel food they may become overwhelmed and feel that they will be pressured to eat all of the food presented.
- Use the food to paint a paper plate with sauce. For example, use a piece of broccoli to brush cheese sauce on a plate. Make patterns with the sauce by using the broccoli as a stamp.
- Use some familiar foods with a few pieces of novel food and arrange them to make a picture such as a smiley face. Take turns making the face as silly as you can.
- Stack the food like blocks then knock them down. Bread cubes, crackers and carrot slices are great for stacking.
- Have a pretend tea party and feed the animals and dolls the novel foods. This is a great way to encourage a child to interact with a new food while not expecting them to eat the new food yet.
Children are more likely to try a new food if they are allowed to explore it at their own pace so be patient and above all have fun!