By Lauren Wickliffe, MSP, CCC-SLP
As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in wipes, napkin swipes and spoon scrapes to keep things clean during meal times with littles. But what if we didn’t? What if we encouraged the mess? Let’s put away our grossed-out faces and get messy!
Children learn through play. Playing with food can be a significant stepping stone toward accepting new foods in a stress-free environment.
This is even more important for our problem feeders. Progressing through the senses – see, smell, touch and maybe eventually taste – can greatly reduce gag reflexes and build acceptance of new foods.
With play, there are fewer surprises when the food touches the tongue for a taste. Kiddos learn about the properties of a food before it reaches their mouth.
Where to begin?
- Start with foods that you want your child to eat. Research shows that it takes about 15 exposures for kiddos to accept new foods. Continue to offer this “learning food” in a variety of ways. Again, there is no pressure to eat the food.
- Put away the napkins. Kids are washable! Try to wait until the end of a meal to wipe down your kiddo. Remember that your little is learning about food by touching it with her hands and moving it around her face.
- Turn your grossed-out face into an excited face.
- Think like a toddler! Have a Thomas the Train lover? Let’s choo-choo our green beans up our arms. Future artist? Let’s finger paint with different colored yogurts. New baby coming to the family? Let’s turn our carrot into a baby doll. Oh and the sound effects! Sneezing a new food off our heads and watching it “kerplunk” is always an exciting way to start engaging.
Even the best bibs in the world don’t catch everything! Consider a splat mat that is easy to clean up. There are fancy ones on the market, but a shower curtain from your local dollar store is easy to wipe and can even be hosed off if necessary!
LET’S GET MESSY!
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