Our Blog

Please… Take a Bite! Making Mealtime Fun

Heather LaCroix, MOTR/L, is an Occupational Therapist at Franciscan Hospital for Children. If you have questions, or to refer your child for an Occupational Therapy consultation or Feeding Team evaluation please call (617) 254-3800, ext. 4820 or email info@fhfc.org.

Making Mealtime Fun

Do you find yourself pleading and begging your child to eat? Are you perplexed as to why your child only eats certain foods? Do you find you only make white foods?

Children can be notoriously picky eaters, but sometimes there are other factors involved. Many children experience feeding issues or disorders like medical issues, delayed oral motor skills, sensory processing disorders, and behavioral issues or, more commonly, a combination of these.

Here at Franciscan Hospital for Children we have a multidisciplinary Feeding Team, comprised of occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, as well as psychologists and nutritionists who work together to assess children with a wide range of feeding difficulties.

The Feeding Team evaluates all aspects of a feeding disorder, including both physical and sensory issues that might be present. Physical issues might affect a child’s ability to feed themselves due to decreased strength, immature grasp, and visual and perceptual motor skill deficits. Perhaps even more commonly, the issues that arise are sensory-based.

Children with sensory issues regarding feeding often have difficulty tolerating different textures, temperatures, and colors. Often when a child has sensory issues, maladaptive behaviors will appear. Children may have tantrums, stop eating preferred foods, or have other avoidant behaviors around mealtime.

As parents and caregivers you want to provide basic needs for your child, especially when it comes to eating and fueling their bodies to be healthy and strong. We encourage families to experiment with small changes to mealtime routines as potential solutions to what can otherwise be a frustrating and stressful experience. Below you can find some tips on making mealtime fun:

1. Eat at the table as a family. Start this early and stick with it. Routines are instrumental for child development!

2. Let your child explore their food. Don’t worry about a mess! Meal time should be a fun and an enjoyable experience.

3. Have your child sit in the same seat for all meals.

4. Expose your child to different textures, temperatures and colors as soon as possible

5. Cut food into fun shapes! Mickey pancakes anyone?!

6. Pair new and preferred food together. Don’t overwhelm your child with all new foods

7. Use a first then approach for trying new food. Example: Child takes a bite of yogurt then gets 2 minutes on the iPad!

8. Praise and reward your child for trying new foods. Use sticker charts, high fives, a preferred toy, TV time, dessert.

Observe how these small changes affect your mealtime routine and take note of what works for your child and what doesn’t. If your child continues to have difficulty with sensory issues or physical issues regarding feeding, a consultation with an occupational therapist can help.

View All Blog Stories