• Meet Your Picky, Problem, Growing Eaters at Our Table

    Seed: This is a learning feeder. This child has not yet developed the skills to eat a wide variety of foods by mouth. This feeder may not be ready to place food into their mouth or may be learning to manage purees or their first meltable solids (e.g., puffs). We may see frequent gagging and choking with these friends. We may have difficulty achieving appropriate weight gain and meeting our nutritional content.

    Seedling: This child may have less than 15 foods they eat regularly, may not be able to tolerate new foods on their plate, may present with “behaviors” at the table, may not be able to sit at the table for more than five minutes, may currently eat different meals than the rest of the family, may request/eat the same foods each day, this child may only accept preferred food brands, and may have difficulty describing/navigating foods with new properties/changes.

    Sprout: This child may have less than 30 foods they eat regularly, this child may be emerging with their ability to see, hear, smell, touch, and occasionally taste new foods, this child may need multiple attempts before they can accept a new food into their inventory, this child often may be able to sit at the table for a full meal and may be presented with the same meal as the rest of the family in addition to their current preferred foods, this child may accept modifications to their preferred food brands and items.

    Blossom: This child has mastered a variety of skills including: seeing, hearing smelling, touching and tasting of foods. This child is able to enjoy foods with our basic senses, but can sit in a proper child size seat and physically engage in eating and feeding skills using his/her vestibular and proprioceptive skills. This child can tolerate a wide variety of foods from each food group, but still may require some hands on play and exploration for new foods.

  • Fall Sensory Bin Fun!

    🍁 Colored leaves and happy kiddos please! This #PlayDay we have a fall leaf sensory bin that will not disappoint! With this sensory bin we are hoping to engage the eyes, ears, hands, and noses! 

    What we used:
    🍁 Fall leaves (you can use real or fake).

    🥜 Acorns that had fallen on the ground.

    👃 Cinnamon sticks.

    🌲 Pinecones.



    🤚 Optional:

    1. Kitchen tongs for our little ones that may not be ready to dive in with their hands.
    2. Extra seasonings or essential oils to sprinkle (or drop) on top for an intense scent activity!


    😃 Play-tip: see which item makes the loudest sound when FALLing into the bin!

    💡 Pro-tip: encourage your child to help gather fresh items from outside for this bin so that they are able to learn more about the growing process! Take some time to compare pictures of green leaves on trees to the way the trees are looking now. Look up a picture of an acorn when it first starts growing and compare it to what you found outside.


    🤔 Living in a more urban area with less access to fresh trees and leaves? Never fear, Target Dollar Spot and Amazon Prime never disappoint!

  • Fall Sensory Trays!

    This season we are LOVING the latest shake up for sensory bins and bags in the evolution of the sensory baking tray!

    This is a fun way to introduce your little one to a variety of new concepts!

    For our fall sensory baking sheet we used:

    🌻 Flowers (“These flowers have a BIG smell, they smell sweet!”)

    🧂 Pom-Poms (“Look! These pom-poms are so colorful! I can pick up the green one with my clip!”)

    🌲 Pinecones (“Wow! These pinecones feel bumpy!”)

    🕯 Artificial Candles (“Woah! These candles make my pom-pom look brighter!”)

    🧁 Silicone cupcake liners (“Look I can put my pinecones IN! Plop! Plop!”)

    🥨 Chip-Clips

    Feel free to sprinkle whatever seasoning you want on top! We love to use nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices this time of year!

    NOTE: If you don’t have “chip-clips” on hand, clothespins work great too!

    As always, remember this activity is a great opportunity to practice that neutral descriptive language while helping your little one learn all about different textures, shapes, sizes and scents!

  • Pumpkins and Peppers and Plums OH MY!

    This pumpkin season we look to all things fall and fun! If you’re looking for a fun play day activity look no further! We have found you can bring the joy of pumpkin carving season to just about any fruit or vegetable that you please!

    What we used:
    -small cookie cutters
    -child-safe knives (optional for older kiddos)
    -a variety of colored peppers
    -battery powered tealights (optional)

    ✅ We used adult-sized helping hands to assist in the removal of the top of the pepper

    ✅ Next, we encouraged kiddo-sized hands to do the scooping/removal of the seeds

    ✅ Then, we used small cookie cutters to make eyes, noses, and mouths

    ✅ Lastly, we plopped mini battery-powered tea lights in for a spooky-feel


    😃 Play-tip: This is a great opportunity to learn about shapes or even following directions! Have your little ones put their listening ears on to pick out circle-shaped cookie cutters versus square or star shapes!

    💡 Pro-tip: For some little ones, scooping out the seeds may seem overwhelming at first. Try offering a spoon as a “special pepper scooper” if they appear hesitant to interact with the insides of the pepper.

    🌶 Wondering what to do with your peppers after you finished carving and playing with them? We love to make a spooky stuffed pepper from our jack-o-lanterns for a scary fun meal you won’t forget!

    What if you don’t have peppers at home this week? Don’t worry! You can make any fruit or vegetable with a peelable rhine “spooky” simply by grabbing a sharpie and coloring on spooky faces with your little one (think oranges, bananas, even corn husks)! Be sure to talk about how the fruit or veggies feels while you hold it and if it has a big or small smell! Is it citrus scented? sweet? The possibilities are endless!

  • All About Apples 🍎

    Fall is creeping in all around us and this season we are loving all things APPLE! Looking for a few fun ways to shake up your usual sliced apple? We love letting our little ones help decorate everything from apple doughnuts –

    to apple nachos!

    feel free to provide any sort of topping, sprinkle or combination you and your little on can dream up together! We like to mix drizzles of caramel, chocolate, coconut cream or maybe even an apple sauce with fun sprinkles which can be anything from classic sprinkles, to crushed cereal, graham cracker or freeze dried fruit!

    While we’re thinking of apples don’t forget to peek at our post on how to use apples as a heavy-work sensory preparation activity here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CE2ejyApmTw/ !

    Looking for a few more fall fun ideas? Don’t miss our Fall FREEBIE Scavenger hunt handout here: https://falling-grass-1079.ck.page/d8dffec670

  • FACT FRIDAY: The MOST and LEAST Likely Food Allergens

    🥘 We are often asked about allergens, so we decided to share the 8 most common foods that are likely to present as allergens according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some of the least likely from one of our favorite books Nobody Ever Told me or my Mother That by Diane Bhar.

    🚨 Most likely: Milk (dairy), eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanuts, soy, and treenuts] (Bahr, 2010, p. 73).


    ✅ Least likely: Apples, asparagus, avocado, barley, broccoli, carrots, chicken, lettuce, mangoes, oats, peaches, pears, sunflower oil, salmon, lamb, turkey, rice, squash, sweet potatoes, pears, olive oil — and these are just some of the many least likely food options (Bahr, 2010, p. 73-74).

    🔍 Some of the common symptoms to note if you feel your child is experiencing a food allergy are: stuffy or runny nose, wheezing and/or coughing, constipation or diarrhea, gas or abdominal pain, bad breath, gagging or vomiting, excessive colic like behaviors, refusal/dislike of touch, reoccuring sinus/ear and/or chest infections, dark circles or bags around the eyes, red cheeks and/or ear lobes, rashes, eczema, difficulty sleeping, excessive rocking and/or banging head, excessive drooling or perspires easily (Bahr, 2010, p. 72).

    💡 It is important to introduce one new food at a time to help identify if your child has a food allergy and wait between 3 to 5 days between each new food (CDC, 2018). Be sure to discuss any concerns with your child’s physician and possibly discuss a referral to a pediatric allergist.

    🤷‍♀️ How does this relate to picky eating?

    This is a top question that we ask during an evaluation. Not only is it for safety, but think about how you feel when you eat something and have discomfort. Allergen symptoms can sometimes be traumatic and/or uncomfortable for the little ones, and we can sometimes use this as an indicator of when “picky eating” started if symptoms were noted and eating decreased. There are many other areas that can lead to picky eating, but this one that we always include in our assessments.

    References:
    Bahr, D. (2010) Nobody Ever Told Me or my Mother That! Arlington, Texas: Sensory World.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, December 3). When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html

    *We also recommend checking out the American Academy of Pediatrics website for more information on food allergies!

  • SWEET POTATO – 20 Ways to Play

    1. Play “hot potato!” Pass the potato around while the music is playing. When it stops (assign someone to be the music pauser), whoever has the potato has to do a silly potato dance! 
    2. Try your hand at building a tower! Use sweet potato cubes and toothpicks to build towers! See who can make the tallest tower! 
    3. Make a sweet potato peel sensory bin! Use those peels and place them into a container to make your sensory bin! Place small toys inside and go digging to find them! Tip: if your Little isn’t ready to touch the squishy peels, give them a kitchen tool like tongs or scoops to help them dig to find the objects! 
    4. Play find the potato! Get out three cups and bowls and hide the sweet potato under one of them. Mix them all around and then practice guessing which cup/bowl the potato is under! 
    5. Try your hand at heavy work! Stack potatoes into a bin and push them around the house! OR use potatoes as your pretend weights and practice doing bicep curls like you’re super heroes! 
    6. Can you balance a sweet potato?! Try a balancing contest with holding a potato on your forehead/nose! Make sure to talk about how the potato feels and smells! 
    7. Have a sweet potato play! Dress your sweet potatoes up with ribbons or pipe cleaners and act out a play! Pretend they’re your Littles favorite TV show or book characters! 
    8. Make your best guess! Work on number recognition and practice making educated guesses! Weigh sweet potatoes on food scales (or your home scale)! Whoever had the closest guess wins! 
    9. Pretend to be your favorite animal! Grab sweet potato slices (stick-shaped) and pretend to have walrus tasks, snake fangs, unicorn horns, deer antlers, and more! 
    10. Use your nose! Bake your sweet potato slices with different scents (cinnamon, paprika, parmesan cheese, and more). Place them in a non-see through container and barely lift the lid to take a smell and guess! Make it easier by placing the scent options on the counter and try to match them correctly!
    11. Crunch contest! Enjoy making (or grab a bag of) sweet potato chips and see who can make the loudest crunch! Is it louder when you crunch with your front or back teeth? hand or finger!
    12. Raw Jenga – Cut a sweet potato into thin (stick shaped) strips and build your own Jenga tower! When you’re done exploring, simply rinse the “blocks” and enjoy preparing fresh sweet potato fries together!
    13. Make a sweet potato porcupine! Grab a sweet potato, a handful of golf tees and a child-safe hammer and help your porcupine make sure all of his spikes are safely in place!
    14. Potato avalanche! Let your little help you pour your sweet potatoes from bowl to bowl, be sure to call out “AVALANCHE” !
    15. Dinosaur footprints – Slice your potato into cubes and steam well, lay out a handful of the cubes and let your little help you “smash” down the cubes with a fork to make “dinosaur footprints!” (Bonus alert! This turns into great mashed sweet potatoes for dinner!)
    16. Sweet potato stamps – slice your sweet potato in half and carve out a fun shape (think stars, hearts, circles, etc!). Grab some fun food paint (think ketchup, sour cream, mustard, etc) and paper plates or construction paper and stamp away!
    17. Sweet potato experiment – Check out this fun experiment from pre-k-pages here!
    18. Give a size comparison activity a go! Grab a handful of sweet potato chips or fries and line them up. Let your little help you sort them into groups based on length, width, shape, etc!
    19. Sweet potato snow – let your little help you shred a sweet potato and sprinkle it lightly or in heaps in to a bowl or on to a plate! Use your hands as snow plows and knock down those big “snow piles” together!
    20. Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!
  • Back to School for Littles with Food Allergies – Insight from Paige Wagner RDN, LD

    Hi there!

    It’s Paige here, and I am so excited to be sharing more blog posts about food allergy tips for children and their parents! You can get to know me a little better by checking out last week’s post, 7 Tips for Parents of Children with Newly Diagnosed Food Allergies.

    “Back-to-school” is looking a little different for everyone this year. It appears everyone is stuck with deciding if their child will be attending in person or virtually, or maybe your school district has already made their decision regarding COVID-19. Regardless, the following back to school tips for children with food allergies can come in handy for homeschooling (if someone else will be watching your children) or in a typical classroom setting.

    1. Be informed. Check into your school’s policies and procedures regarding food allergies. What staff is trained to administer an epi-pen? Are the cafeteria workers familiar with how to handle food allergies? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions and provide them with information about training through the following link: https://www.foodallergy.org/keeping-students-safe-and-included . This course is FREE and there are six August training dates available.
    2. Prepare and Provide: Submit all required medical documentation to your school along with any prescribed medicines. Make sure staff knows how to properly care for an epi-pen (i.e.: they should not be shared and should not be kept in warm temperatures). Check out this article on how storing an epi-pen in a car can cause it to be up to 14% less effective: https://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/news-releases/epipens-heat
    3. Communication is Key: Make sure you teach your child who to ask for help when they have food allergy questions and concerns, and how to handle an allergic reaction. Meet with staff ahead of time to help your child and the staff feel comfortable.
    4. School Meals: Many school meals are going to be consumed in the classroom this year to aid in social distancing. Speak with your child’s teacher about their allergen and make a plan for when they eat around others. Some schools have nut-free policies, but always have a plan in place in case another student packs them. Make sure desks are wiped off with soap (not just sanitizer) to effectively remove the food allergy protein).
    5. Transportation: If your child rides a school bus, make sure the bus driver is familiar with how to handle an allergic reaction. This includes informing bus drivers for field trips too.
    6. Self-Management: Confidence in key. Make sure that your child feels confident in how to handle an allergic reaction. This means knowing who to go to, where their epi-pen/medicine can be located, etc. This will help reduce panic if an allergic reaction should occur.

    Now that we have reviewed the tough stuff, let’s talk snacks! Here are a few of my favorite allergen free snacks that I share with students at my job.

    Zego Fruit Bars (and other products):

    These tasty fruit bars come in a variety of flavors, including raspberry, blueberry, cherry, pear, lemon ginger, sunflower date, fudgy chocolate, and cherry chia! They also make delicious granola packs too. Shop their full collection here: https://zegofoods.com/

    Zego Just Fruit Bars | Flavorpalooza

    Made Good Bars

    These can be found in local grocery stores such as Meijer, Kroger and Walmart.

    https://www.madegoodfoods.com/

    Found: Safe snacks for back-to-school | Ottawa Citizen

    88 Acres Products

    88 Acres has a wide variety of products, all of which are made from seeds! They have granola bars, salad dressings, seed butters and a recipe page on their website: https://88acres.com/ . If you are feeling adventurous, you can even check out their roasted watermelon seed butter.

    Seed Bar Sample Pack

    Comment below if you decide to try any of these products out. Have a great week!

  • Deconstruct to Instruct – Wraps

    #DeconstructToInstruct with wraps! This is a new strategy we introduced to help little ones become more comfortable with mixed foods. ⬇️ Check out this gradual progression with steps below:

    1️⃣ Step one: Introduce each ingredient (tortilla, cheese, meat, lettuce, condiment) separately and not in the same meal

    2️⃣ Step two: Gradually introduce two foods (separated) on the same plate during a meal time

    3️⃣ Step three: Serve all of the wrap ingredients on the same plate (separated) during a meal time

    4️⃣ Step four: Serve all of the wrap ingredients with two having a connection (cheese & meat in same shape stacked on top of each other, small amounts of condiments on top of lettuce)

    5️⃣ Step five: Provide a small portion of all foods mixed together on the same plate as a regular meal (a mini pinwheel slice of the wrap)

    6️⃣ Step six: Serve a meal-sized portion (can be served as multiple pinwheels or a whole wrap) 

    &Enjoy!

  • 7 Tips for Parents of Children Newly Diagnosed with Food Allergies – Insight from Paige Wagner, RDN, LD

    Hi there!

    My name is Paige Wagner, Registered Dietitian, and I work closely with individuals of all ages for nutrition counseling. I specifically focus on food allergies, vegan and vegetarian foods, food service sustainability, and culinary nutrition. I currently work with chefs to teach cooking classes and analyze menu’s at Bowling Green State University. I work with a variety of students who have food allergies, eating disorders, auto-immune diseases, and more. My passion is developing and implementing allergen free recipes so students living with allergies can enjoy delicious, easy meals that are hassle-free!

    Currently, there are 32 million Americans that are living with food allergies, which is a 377% increase between 2007 and 2016. Approximately 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy (that is about 2 in every classroom). The most common allergens (also known as the Top 8), include fish, shellfish, soy, milk, egg, peanuts, treenuts and wheat and sesame has now become known as the 9th top allergen (FARE, 2020).

    Food Allergy Epidemic Infograph

    Image from foodallergy.org

    There are so many different topics that I could discuss about food allergies, including treatments, eating at home, away from home, back to school, new research, etc. However, I thought it may be best to start with kitchen tips for parents of newly diagnosed children. Newly diagnosed food allergies can be very terrifying for not only a child, but especially for the parents who cook their food. Not only are children often picky eaters, but throw a food allergy into the mix and you may constantly have anxiety around mealtimes. Here are a few tips that when implemented may help ease anxiety and fear around dinner time for you and your little:

    1. Familiarize with food labels: Make sure you know how to read food labels and train anyone who may be preparing food for your child on how to look for the allergen. For example, sometimes gluten can be hidden as modified food starch and it is also often found in soy sauce. For more tips on how to look for your child’s allergen, click here: https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/how-read-food-label
    2. Separate safe and unsafe foods. If you have family members who may still be consuming the food allergen that your child has (such as peanut butter), make sure that you assign labels to any of the foods that contain the allergen and keep them separate from allergen free foods. If your child has access to grab their own snacks, try using a colored sticker system on boxes so they know what is safe (green sticker) and not safe (red sticker).
    3. Keep separate utensils for foods that contain the allergen and foods that do not. It may help to write on the utensils or use a color system, along with labeling drawers. Make sure that anyone who may use them knows what color is used for what item.
    4. When cooking, make sure all family members wash their hands. Scrub down the counters with soap and water because soap must be present to remove the protein that causes the reaction in food allergies.
    5. Always avoid cross-contact. For example, do not batter fish in breadcrumbs and then use the same bowl of breadcrumbs to batter chicken. The fish protein that your child is allergic to will then contaminate the chicken that you were planning for them to eat.
    6. If you have children without food allergies, make sure that you educate them on not sharing food with their sibling who has the allergy. It may be helpful to adapt family rituals, specific seating arrangements, etc.
    7. Train all family members and anyone who may be with your child during a mealtime on how to respond to an allergic reaction.

    Phew, that was a lot of information! On a lighter note, I wanted to share a few of my favorite cookbooks that I use daily. Also, below you will find one of my personal favorite recipes for allergen-free chocolate chip cookies!

    Easy Allergen-Free Drop Cookies

    Image

    Ingredients:

    • 1 ¼ cup quinoa flour or banana flour
    • ½ tsp xantham gum
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp baking soda
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free buttery spread, such as earth- balance
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp dairy-free milk beverage
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 to 2 cups vegan chocolate chips (enjoy-life brand is great)

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
    3. Put wet ingredients in a stand mixer or large bowl. Using the stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
    4. Add dry mixture to wet mixture. Stir until dough sticks together and is well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. For softer, thicker cookies, refrigerate dough for 10 minutes.
    5. Place ¼ cup size spoonful’s of dough onto the baking sheet. About 3 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes for soft cookies, or until edges are golden brown.
    6. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    7. Serve, storing leftovers in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature and any extra cookies in the freezer.

    – Paige Wagner RDN, LD

  • Family Style Serving – What’s the big idea?

    First of all, what is family style serving?

    Family style serving involves presenting foods via a platter or bowl and passing the dishes around the table to that everyone can help serve their own portion onto their own plate.

    Wondering why this might help your learning eater? As always, remember exposure is key, it is each and every repeated exposure to a new, novel or non-preferred food that bring us forward on the journey to accepting new foods.

    Wondering what this might look like?

    We LOVE using Melanie Potock, MA CCC-SLP’s “Big Scoop, Small Sample” strategy. This strategy utilizes a big serving spoon (e.g., think a classic serving spoon) and a small serving spoon (e.g., this can be an ice cream tasting spoon, a child-size or infant spoon, a teaspoon, maybe even a plastic popsicle stick!).

    Next, as per Melanie, you establish the family rule: “We ALL put a bit of everything on our plate.” Don’t worry if you’re late to the game starting this routine, it’s okay to tell your little one “we have a NEW family rule” and then explain!

    *PLEASE NOTE* – the rule is placing a “bit” of food on our plates, the expectation is not a bite of every food – it’s simply to tolerate having new and novel foods on our plate. Remember, this is the first step working in the direction of one-day someday tasting a new or novel food!

    Once you’ve established the rule and talked about it with your family, it’s time to get started! Add the big and small spoon to each bowl when you serve family style that night. Help your little one feel empowered in their ability to make a choice about what goes on to their plate by offering them the choice, “do you want a BIG scoop or a TINY scoop/sample?” Feel free to remind them of the family rule before you get started and it can often help to serve yourself first as a visual model. This might sounds like: “Don’t forget our new family rule! We all put a bit of each food on our plate! I’ll scoop first, I’m taking a big scoop of noodles tonight, here honey, do you want a BIG scoop or a tiny sample of noodles? First it’s your choice and then daddy will choose if he is going to take a big or tiny sample!”

    Remember –

    It can be helpful to start by serving one of your little one’s preferred foods first (e.g., mac and cheese) – “I have a tiny taste of mac and cheese on my plate, here, would you like to get a big scoop or a tiny scoop?” to get the new routine going!

    Want more information on this strategy?

    Don’t miss Melanie’s posts here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCrjrv8BB7A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link & https://www.instagram.com/p/CCRrXaAhfUC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

    Want more information on why family style meals matter?

    Check out Melanie’s article on The Today Parenting Team here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/the-pandemic-the-return-of-family-mealtimes

    Don’t miss this quick clip discussing how family dinners make good readers here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88JOFbrA9F0