- 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!
- Try your hand at building a tower! Use sweet potato cubes and toothpicks to build towers! See who can make the tallest tower!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- Potato avalanche! Let your little help you pour your sweet potatoes from bowl to bowl, be sure to call out “AVALANCHE” !
- 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!)
- 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!
- Sweet potato experiment – Check out this fun experiment from pre-k-pages here!
- 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!
- 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!
- Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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/
Made Good Bars
These can be found in local grocery stores such as Meijer, Kroger and Walmart.
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.
Comment below if you decide to try any of these products out. Have a great week!
#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)
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).
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:
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve, storing leftovers in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature and any extra cookies in the freezer.
– Paige Wagner RDN, LD
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!”
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
Make a splash this summer with a giant sensory bin!
Grab a giant bucket from your local hardware or dollar store and fill it up with different shape and textured rocks, then fill the remainder up with water.
Practice dipping your hands (or toes!) in while practicing using that neutral descriptive language!
Working on animal sounds? Why not add a few animals in there! Working on colors? Add colored stones and help your little dig for “yellow treasure! now blue treasure!”
A Look at Language:
“Look! this rock is so bumpy!”
“Wow! My toes feel wet!”
“Brrr… this water feels cold and wet like an ice pop!”
“Look this rock is so slippery!”
“Woah! That splash felt just like when I pop a grape on my BIG teeth!”
Practicing your descriptive language outside of mealtimes can help make that neutral descriptive language flow easily and naturally come meal/snack time! So go ahead and DIVE in! 🙂
- Make your own salsa – Make sure your little one is as involved in the preparation as is age-appropriate for them!
- Build a ladybug with cherry tomatoes and black olive pieces OR use large tomato slices as wings for a butterfly!
- Try a farmers’ Market scavenger hunt to find different tomatoes and colors
- Read “Too Many Tomatoes” and write notes to share with others along with a basket of tomatoes
- Scoop out the inside of tomatoes and use them as bowls
- Count how many seeds you can find in a tomato
- Make kebabs with cherry tomatoes and your choice of toppings
- Play “hot tomato” to the tune of “hot potato”
- Grow your own potted tomato plant
- Bob for tomatoes in the summer heat (use large tomatoes )
- Make your own tomato shapes with cookie cutters!
- Craft a tomato with a paper plate and crayons, markers, or paint!
- Feeling extra creative? Use tomato juices to make your own paint for your tomato craft or for any artwork!
- Play “Find the Tomato.” Use three cups and hide the tomato under one! Mix them up and guess where it ends up!
- Cut up your tomatoes or use cherry tomatoes to practice making letters! Arrange letters to learn about sounds like “t” for “tomato!
- Play “red light, green light.” Elect one person to be “it” and go back and forth between green and red tomatoes being held up high. When green is in the air, run! When red is in the air, STOP!
- Make your own pizzas and spread that tomato sauce together!
- Tomato sauce face paint – can you both make a silly clown nose? Why not some red lipstick? How about a polk-a-dot tongue!
- Squeeze a tomato together and sample fresh tomato juice? Is it sour? Sweet? Tart?
- Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!
⭐️ What we used:
-star shaped mini marshmallows
-fun little star shape toys
-a *magical* star wand
💫 It was a magically, marshmallowy good time playing in this! With our little ones we discussed:
+How squishy these marshmallows are!
+How soft and fluffy they are!
+How easy to tear with our hands!
+How many fun colors there are to find in this bin!
🤚 We like to use sensory bins to help our little ones “warm up” before heading to the table. This gives then time to engage with a food (in this case marshmallows) with the focus exclusively on play! Sensory bins are a a great way to expose your little one to new and novel foods, scents, textures, etc!
We’re embracing the outdoors and aiming to soak up all of the sunshine we can here in Michigan this summer! Join us for s’more fun tips!
S’mores are a summertime favorite. We love putting a BERRY fresh twist on your traditional s’more by smashing berries (think raspberries, blackberries, etc)& spreading them onto our crackers!
Need a calorie booster? Try spreading coconut oil or adding a nut butter spread – maybe even use a peanut butter cup with your nut butter spread!
Sometimes a little change of scene can go a LONG way in helping your little one feel more comfortable exploring new foods with you! Pack up a picnic & head to a park (or even into your own backyard!), let your little help you pack the picnic and set it out!
Let your little one help you collect sticks of varying shapes and sizes from your backyard (or maybe a park near you!). Enjoy building forts or pretend play building “fires” together – this is a great opportunity to develop pretend play skills, teach comparative size (e.g., big, small, tiny, long) &locational (e.g., on top, under, by) concepts (e.g., “look! I can put the little tiny stick – on top of the big long one!). Keep practicing that language and relate what you can to foods (e.g., “look! this stick is brown&thick like a sausage, let’s pretend to roast it!).
Ashleigh, Natalie and Molly
❌⭕️ Looking for a fun way to engage your little with novel foods?
Why not play a fun round or two of Tic Tac Toe!
We used some fun cut-outs and a couple different foods from a variety of food groups to play an awesome game!
This is such a fun, simple way to get our littles hands on with foods!
💡 Bonus: it can also be an easy way to work on shape recognition and turn-taking!