Let's Play With Food!
Play is an extraordinary modality for children to learn about their environment. Through play, children learn problem solving skills, construction and destruction, sharing, language, and how to eat. Eating is a vulnerable experience for people, as adults we might not think about it that way but every time we eat we are trusting that the taste, temperature, texture, and smell are all safe for our body. Think back to that time where you tried something new, for me it was oysters, I was hesitant, spent longer than usual looking at them, smelled and touched them, and even poked it with my tongue before I was willing to put it in my mouth. Then I also had to chew, and swallow. Oh man, I get a little overwhelmed thinking about all the steps involved in deciding that a new food is safe for my body, especially if it looks different than my usual food!
Well, it shouldn't be a big surprise that kids are the same way and the way they learn about food is by playing with it. In feeding therapy I encourage children to do things like paint with their ketchup, pretend that strawberry juice is lipstick, and cracker crumbs are sand because as a result they independently choose to be around the food and maybe even touch it. By giving your child an opportunity to play with food, you are increasing your chances that they will be willing to smell, lick, bite, and possibly chew and swallow it. When we don't offer the food we inadvertently take away a learning opportunity.
If you are concerned about mess, feel free to do this outside in the backyard or at a park. Inside, you can lay a mat down on the floor that is easily wipeable. This could also be a great time to let your child attempt to help clean up at the end of a meal by choosing an age appropriate activity such as letting them attempt to wipe their own hands, take the dishes to the sink, or help sweep up the floor.
Remember, play is fun!
If you have concerns about your child's feeding skills, please contact us at Little Peas directly or ask your pediatrician about a referral for a feeding evaluation.
-McKenzie Rushcamp M.A. CCC-SLP