Introducing New Foods to your Child with Feeding Deficits
In a previous article we considered the differences between a picky eater and a problem feeder. If you missed that article you can read it here. Today I share some simple tips for introducing your child to new foods.
Involve your child in preparing the menu for the week. Determine together which recipes your child might be interested in cooking. You can discuss whether the recipe needs to be changed, or whether something could be added. Have your child help you decide what ingredients need to be put on the grocery list. If it is not too overwhelming for your child, s/he can accompany you to the store and help you purchase the ingredients you need. Some children may also be interested in having a grocery store scavenger hunt to find the items on the list. Make this experience fun!
Include your child when preparing the meal. This allows for some exploration of food without expecting the child to eat it. Food preparation can be less stimulating and anxiety provoking than sitting down for a meal. Make your food preparation fun by allowing for exploration through “play” with the foods. It is important to touch the food. Allow your child to touch, squish, smear, or knead the food. Try experimenting by adding new and different ingredients. This is also a great time to talk about all of the different smells. Don’t force your child to smell something, but you can talk about how good the food smells to you or what it reminds you of. Remember that just because your child helped prepare the meal, s/he may still not eat it. At this stage you are just providing exposure and interaction with food, not expecting the child to eat it. If your child chooses to try the new food, that is great; but don’t force him/her to try it.
Use food for play. You can use pudding to paint beautiful masterpieces, or unmixed jello and water to make a watercolor painting. Make home-made play-dough with ingredients in the kitchen. Beautiful jewelry can be crafted out of shoestring licorice and noodles. The list could go on and on, the point being that you use food for things other than eating. Playing with food items in this way provides exposure to the food without expecting that it will be eaten.
Make scent jars with a variety of different smells, including food and non-food items. Place small amounts of spices, sauces, pieces of food or non-food items into “smelly jars”. Spend some time smelling the items with your child, and trying to guess what it might be. Take time to talk about whether it is a good or bad scent. You can discuss whether it smells like something you would eat, or if it is something else. Providing an opportunity to smell a variety of scents without needing to eat anything is another way to expose your child to new and different foods. If your child seems to respond positively to spicy smells, this may be an indication that their sense of smell and taste are duller than the typical person. You may try presenting your child with a spicy food or sauce to see if s/he is willing to try it. Remember not to force your child to eat it, but just present it as an option.
The most important thing to remember in all of these suggestions is to not expect your child to eat anything. These are just some of the ways to expose your child to the many food options available to them. You can get started with these ideas and pursue an evaluation/treatment if your child requires more intensive support.