Occupational Therapists (OT) focus on a variety of daily life activities, one of which is feeding. OTs focus on skills such as: motor planning of bringing the spoon to the mouth, grasping patterns to hold the spoon, chewing, tongue lateralization, texture aversions, and if necessary, facilitating the skill of eating through the use of adaptive equipment.
How can we work on feeding at home while making it fun for our kids to explore foods that they don’t usually go for? Here are some ideas to help you go from choosing the same foods every day (think: chicken nuggets, pizza, French fries, cereal, etc.) to eating a variety of flavors and textures that are OT-approved:
1. Utilize non-preferred foods to paint on a piece of paper:
Get a food that isn't your child's fave, like broccoli, and use it to paint/ create shapes while tolerating touching it.
Talk about the non-preferred food! Describe the shape, colors, smell, and texture of it. When do we eat it? What does it remind you of? Why is it good for you? Who eats broccoli at home?
OTs use this activity in therapy, and it looks something like this:
2. Pretend play activities to explore:
Play pretend grocery shopping and buy what you need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Create a shopping list and draw/add visuals of foods you are going to "buy." Include a mix of preferred and non-preferred foods to provide your child with the opportunity to validate the non-preferred foods that they usually don't pick during pretend playing.
Ask questions and motivate your child during pretend play . For example, "what food does mom/dad likes to eat for breakfast? What do YOU like to eat?" "What new food would YOU like to smell?" "What food would YOU like to see when you get home?"
3. Cooking time
Grab preferred and non-preferred foods like fruits and veggies, and have your child help you wash them and put them in a new container. Then, dry them and squeeze them with a feeding utensil (spoon/fork) and/or your bare hands.
Using all our senses for food exploration (sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing) and pretending to feed others (whether it's people or toys), opens the idea of being curious about this new food!
Trying novel and interactive activities at home allows children to be creative and more interested in exploring new foods. Many memories will be made while working on these occupational therapy-based feeding activities. Happy feeding!