For some families, meal time can be the most challenging part of the day. Parenting a child who is having difficulty with eating can be tough for the entire family! Some kids are picky for a short time, or avoid only a few specific foods, and some kids may outgrow a food challenge. Some children maintain a difficult relationship with food for an extended period of time, seem to be regressing in skill, or make meal time a complete disaster with no end in sight.
The Battle Field
When the preparation of food, the presentation of food, and/or the act of coming to the table is just the beginning of the mealtime battle, getting your child to eat nutritious and delicious food can be tough. If you are having to frequently pull out your sword and shield in preparation for a mealtime battle, it’s time to seek help from feeding therapists!
If your child’s eating is impacting their growth, or your child is requiring supplements for weight or growth, our therapists can assist in food expansion strategies to enhance your child’s food intake and overall well being.
- Flee the Scene
Some children are overwhelmed by specific foods or the mealtime experience and will run away. Others require parents to strap them in, bribe them, pull out the tablet, or chase them down just to get to the table. If your child is having trouble coming to or staying at the table, feeding therapists can help make food more approachable, assist in attention enhancement, and provide strategies to remain at the table for the entire meal!
- Tantrum Time
When your dinner is thrown on the floor, smeared on the table, or screamed about in protest, your little one is struggling with food. Anxiety and frustration look different on each child, and tantrums can be one of the many responses to complex feelings food may be causing. Your therapist can help determine what abilities your child is struggling with that make the meal so difficult, and assist in developing skills to engage in meals and manage big emotions throughout the eating process.
- The Picky Eater
A child is defined as being a “picky eater” when their food intake/variety is limited, but they are able to eat 30 or more food items. This number includes being able to eat the same food item prepared in a variety of ways! A picky eater may avoid an entire food group, or limit foods to a specific consistency or flavor. A feeding therapist can help picky eaters develop a meaningful relationship with their food and help the number and types of food accepted increase.
- The Problem Feeder
A “problem feeder” is a child that eats 20 foods or less. This child may be brand specific in the foods they tolerate, they may have eliminated entire food groups, or they may avoid all foods that are a specific color, texture or consistency. Problem feeders may have underlying difficulty with oral motor or sensory processing skills resulting in gagging/vomiting, choking, coughing, or drooling. Our therapists are trained to assist in assessing the areas of challenge and increase the types of foods a child is eating to improve their nutritional intake and overall health/wellness.
- Social Skills Suffer
Eating is a social activity. Families and friends sit down to share a meal, go out to eat meals together, bond over coffee dates, celebrate milestones with food, and more! If a child is having difficulty remaining at the table or tolerating being around others eating food, a feeding therapist can step in before social skills and meaningful events are impacted!
If your child falls into any of the above categories, bring your worries to BDI Playhouse feeding therapists! Set up a free consultation to get more information, and put your worries to rest!
Written by: Maggie Lord, MS, OTR/L