• 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

  • TOMATO – 20 Ways to Play

    1. Make your own salsa – Make sure your little one is as involved in the preparation as is age-appropriate for them!
    2. Build a ladybug with cherry tomatoes and black olive pieces OR use large tomato slices as wings for a butterfly!
    3. Try a farmers’ Market scavenger hunt to find different tomatoes and colors 
    4. Read “Too Many Tomatoes” and write notes to share with others along with a basket of tomatoes 
    5. Scoop out the inside of tomatoes and use them as bowls 
    6. Count how many seeds you can find in a tomato 
    7. Make kebabs with cherry tomatoes and your choice of toppings 
    8. Play “hot tomato” to the tune of “hot potato”
    9. Grow your own potted tomato plant 
    10. Bob for tomatoes in the summer heat (use large tomatoes )
    11. Make your own tomato shapes with cookie cutters! 
    12. Craft a tomato with a paper plate and crayons, markers, or paint!
    13. Feeling extra creative? Use tomato juices to make your own paint for your tomato craft or for any artwork!
    14. Play “Find the Tomato.” Use three cups and hide the tomato under one! Mix them up and guess where it ends up! 
    15. Cut up your tomatoes or use cherry tomatoes to practice making letters! Arrange letters to learn about sounds like “t” for “tomato! 
    16. 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!
    17. Make your own pizzas and spread that tomato sauce together!
    18. Tomato sauce face paint – can you both make a silly clown nose? Why not some red lipstick? How about a polk-a-dot tongue!
    19. Squeeze a tomato together and sample fresh tomato juice? Is it sour? Sweet? Tart?
    20. Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!
  • 20 Ways to Play – Apples

    1. Apple donuts! Slice your apples into circles, cut out the middle and decorate your apple donuts! 
    2. Bob for apples! Place apples into a bucket of water and have fun scooping them with ladles or if you have an older child you can attempt traditional apple bobbing! 
    3. Science experiment! Dissect the apples and go hunting for those seeds! 
    4. Smell test! Grab a green, yellow, and red apple to compare the smells of each color! Try first with eyes open and then again with eyes closed to see if you can match the smell to the right apple! 
    5. Red light, green light! Try playing this traditional game, but instead of shouting out “red light, green light” hold the apples up high!
    6. Get the paint out and try apple stamping! Cut the apples in half and use each half to dip in different color paints! Decorate away! 
    7. Try singing a new song! “Roll, roll, roll the apple, roll it to and fro. Roll, roll, roll the apple watch me let it go!” 
    8. Practice counting! Slice up those apples, draw a number and practice counting out the right amount of slices together!
    9. Learn about how apples grow! Watch a short video on apple trees growing! 
    10. Make a fun apple wand! Grab some kid-friendly kebab sticks (or even a starbucks drink stopper) and put some apple pieces on to make your very own wand! 
    11. Color sorting! Get those three different colors back out and grab red, green, and yellow pieces of paper! Have your little sort the slices onto the correct piece of paper! 
    12. Science experiment part two! Slice up your apple and dip it into different liquids to see which slices will stay fresh the longest. Try lemon juice, apple juice, lime juice, etc.! Leave your slices labeled and observe them for a few days! 
    13. Working on shapes in your home? Slice your apples into sticks and start constructing your very own shapes! 
    14. Make mini caramel apples! Slice your apples into wedges, place them on sticks, dip them in caramel and provide a variety of toppings for your little to decorate with! 
    15. Practice your emotion faces! Use apple slices to make pretend happy faces with an apple smile, angry faces with apple eyebrows, or sad faces with apple tears! 
    16. Change the smell of the house! Bake some apples up in a crock pot and see how the smell changes! 
    17. Apple ramps! Get together different things in your home like baking sheets or serving platters and make your own ramps to slide those apples down! Practice counting to send them down! Release them with your hands, or if your little is ready, try holding apples in their mouths at the starting line! 
    18. Apple smashing! Grab out a chopper and smash apples like pretend monsters! 
    19. Apple toss! Stand across from each other and toss apples back and forth! For younger kiddos, sing a song while you do this! For older kiddos, try naming different words that start with “A” while you toss!
    20. Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, continued presentation matters!
  • How to work your little one up from an Oreo to an apple slice – “Linking To Learn”

    Ever heard of “Food Chaining?”

    Does your little one ONLY accept Goldfish Crackers and Oreos right now? Consider Linking to Learn !

    “Food Chaining (Fraker)” or the creation of “Food Hierarchies (Toomy)” refers to the idea of using foods in a planned sequence to build a path to guide your little one as they work up towards experiencing a novel food.

    This requires that we consider the sensory properties (Need a refresh? Read more about our 7 senses and how they apply to feeding here → http://our-table.org/uncategorized/true-or-false-we-have-5-senses/ ) of a food and consider how we can guide our little ones as we LINK foods to help them LEARN about new foods.

    Let’s try it out! Take a food your child always accepts (e.g., Oreos) now.. how do we work up to a fresh banana or apple? Read on!

    Okay, so they have their regular, crunchy, chocolate Oreo – where do I start? Well, let’s grab a Lemon Oreo – we changed the TASTE and COLOR for our little one → Now they have their Lemon Oreo, that Lemon Oreo is yellow (COLOR) and round (SHAPE), next up let’s give them a different yellow (COLOR), crunchy (TEXTURE) food – how about a chickpea puff (We love Hippeas Chickpea Puffs!)!! → Now they have yellow, crunchy, long chickpea puff, where to next? Let’s try some yellow (COLOR), long (SHAPE), squishy (TEXTURE) shredded cheese → Okay, they have yellow, long, squishy shredded cheese – next up, lets try a yellow (COLOR), crunchy (TEXTURE), corn chip (start with a long strip shape (SHAPE) and then hop back into yellow, round and crunchy with a fully round chip!)! → Okay they have a yellow, crunchy, round corn chip; lets try out a white (COLOR), round (SHAPE), crunchy (TEXTURE) banana chip (or maybe even a freeze dried banana slice or banana yogurt melt!)! → Now they have their white, round, crunchy banana chip, let’s flip to a round, white, squishy banana slice!

    Want to keep going?! Okay they’re exploring the banana slice, let’s mash up some of that banana and add cinnamon. Next up, you can try some soft, cooked cinnamon apples, and maybe next thing you know you’ll be exploring crunchy yellow apple slices together !

    NOTE: If you’re a therapist or a parent to a seedling or sprout, we recommend you keep an eye out for the book Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet By: Cheri Fraker, Laura Walbert, Mark Fishbein, and Sibyl Cox. This is an awesome resource about “Food Chaining” which should be on every feeding therapist’s bookshelf !

    We also recommend you check out the course The Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding Therapy developed by Kay Toomey ! A feeding therapist MUST! Please Note: The SOS Approach to Feeding program was developed by Dr. Kay Toomey. For more information on the SOS Approach to Feeding program, please visit www.sosapproach.com.

  • True or False: “We Have 5 Senses” ?!

    FALSE! Did you know we actually have 8 Senses?! When we think of our senses we usually think: “I know those: Vision ( 👀) Olfactory ( 👃🏾) Gustatory ( 👅) Auditory ( 👂🏼) Tactile ( ✋🏾)!” But we actually have THREE other senses — Our Vestibular, Proprioceptive and Interoceptive Senses!

    So what the heck are those?

    1. Vestibular – Think BALANCE – this refers to your ability to perceive what your body is doing (e.g., standing, laying, running) and adjust accordingly thanks to some magical crystals in our middle ear (Okay, they’re not magic – but they are super neat!)
    2. Proprioception – Think SPACE – this is your ability to interpret where your body (each and every body part!) is in space so that you can execute movements etc.!
    3. Interoception – Think INTERNAL – this is a lesser known system and refers to the pyschiological processes of our body including: emotion, thought processes, organ systems and bodily sensations (hunger, thirst, tired, etc.)

    So how does this relate to feeding? We live in a multi-sensory world, and we use each one of those senses every time we eat or take a drink.

    We use ALL 8 SENSES when we eat and drink! Picture yourself eating a cracker ➡️ First, you use VISION to see the cracker across the room on the table, this cues our brains (🧠) that we might be getting ready to eat, including increasing our saliva production and sending out those hunger cues!

    As you sit down at the table to eat your cracker, wait… did you fall off your chair?! No?! You can thank your PROPRIOCEPTIVE sense for sending signals to your joints and muscles to coordinate body awareness and movements as you move your arms to pull out the chair, step in front of the chair, reach for the seat and sit down, scoot the chair forward to the table, and rest your feet firmly on the ground.

    Don’t forget your VESTIBULAR system (part of your inner ear) for telling your brain/body that you are now sitting helping you to balance and to stay upright as you move to sit on that chair!

    Now that you’re safely on your chair, you use your OLFACTORY system to smell the cracker’s (cheesy, salty, spicy) scent which begins to prepare you for what flavor you might expect when it touches down on your tongue!

    Next, you reach down and use your TACTILE sense to touch your cracker, is it grainy and rough? Powdery? Wet (for our Graham cracker dippers)? Are you getting the idea here?! Next, you placed that cracker into your mouth. Did you miss the cracker? Did it go in on the first try? Thank that PROPRIOCEPTIVE sense again!

    Now you are using your GUSTATORY sense to taste that salty/sweet/spicy goodness! Did you let that cracker sit in the middle of your mouth, or were you able to scoop it up with your tongue and bring it over to your teeth to crunch it up? Again, your PROPRIOCEPTIVE sense is at work to move your tongue and push food around your mouth, and to chew.

    Wait, did you HEAR that crunch?! Your AUDITORY sense lets you learn how all different food sound when you take a bite – crunch, crack, squish and splat, and while being prepared, and don’t forget how all of those additional background noises may affect participation in mealtime.

    All of that for just one bite of cracker! 😅It is amazing how all of these senses are linked, and when one does not work properly, another sense will compensate for it. It is important to provide our little ones opportunities to learn using ALL of their senses – especially when we are at the table!

  • Highchair Positioning — What’s the Big Idea?

    When?

    [ 💡] It’s time to start thinking about optimal positioning for success while feeding your little one solid foods, once they have mastered trunk control sufficient for brief independent sitting, stable head control and have been cleared/deemed ready for solids by your pediatrician and/or feeding therapists (please note: we do not recommend presenting solid foods before 4 months of age as per the American Academy of Pediatrics).

    Why?

    [ 💡]  Breathing will always be our bodies’ number one priority – improving positioning for feeding will ensure optimal breath support, which increases the brain’s ability to focus on eating rather than falling!

    [ 💡] Proximal stability = distal mobility ; simply meaning, good strength and core control allows our bodies the ability to coordinate movements outside of our base of support, such as hand to mouth and oral (think lips, jaw, tongue) movements to be able to suckle, suck, chew and/or swallow our foods!

    How?

    [ 💡]  90-90-90 as a general rule! → Look for a 90 degree angle in your little ones’ hips, knees and ankles to ensure optimal stability and support at mealtimes! Ensure the tray or table is sitting between your little one’s belly button and breast to allow for good elbow support!

    What if?

    [ 💡] My little one’s legs are dangling down from their high-chair and my footrest isn’t adjustable? — You can use phone books, yoga blocks, exercise resistance bands, books, pool noodles, empty cardboard boxes stack them up and tape in place when/where your child can achieve that 90 degree positioning at the hips, knees and ankles!

    [ 💡] My little one is slumped in his/her chair? — you can use towels, shelf liner, no skid mats rolled, stacked, folded etc., to add in lateral/side and or back supports to help your child achieve that 90-90-90 alignment !

  • 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.