(KUTV) Kids are known for being picky eaters. Mealtime stress is normal, but there are some signs that might mean there’s a bigger feeding problem.
“If you really can’t get your kid to accept an increased variety, if they’re really only eating 5-10 foods, if they’re unable to transition textures, if your kid is stuck on only puree foods and gagging on every other texture then you really need to come in and get some help,” says Kimbery Hirte, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Primary Children’s Rehab at Riverton Hospital.
For kids who struggle, start by talking to your pediatrician and ask if feeding therapy might be able to help determine what’s going on.
“We’re able to look at kids chewing skills, how they move their tongue, and kind of figure out what the reasons are of why they’re not eating,” says Hirte.
Feeding therapy not only helps the child, it also coaches parents on how to make mealtime more successful at home. This means having fun, being creative, and letting your child be in control.
For some kids, one strategy is to try dipping foods into different flavors and textures.
“Dipping is like playing. It’s fun. You could do hummus with a little bit of increased texture or you could do a ranch, and that’s completely smooth,” says Hirte.
Additional dipping options that are popular among kids: ketchup, peanut butter, and Nutella.
Hirte recommends letting kids play, get messy, and finding a way for them to feed themselves.
“Forks and spoons, they see that every day – it’s kind of boring. They want something new. So using a toothpick is really fun and a creative way to eat,” says Hirte.
Other mealtime strategies parents can try:
Cut foods into shapes or make a silly face out of the foods
Let kids sort foods into different containers like they would with any other toy
Model good eating behavior by eating the same foods as your child
Keep a consistent mealtime routine – avoid excess snacking, eat in a high-chair, limit distractions
Offer a variety of foods and if your child refuses a new food – that’s okay. Don’t give up.
“Sometimes it takes 5, 10, 15 introductions of a new food, especially a fruit or vegetable, for kids to like it,” says Hirte.
One thing for parents to remember is that mealtime progress is about more than eating and swallowing a food. Kids have to be comfortable seeing, touching, and smelling a food – which are all steps to celebrate.