Debunking Common Feeding Myths
MYTH: No Playing with Your Food
FACT: A child is much more willing to lick or bite a food if their hands have touched it first! Interacting with and touching food is actually a part of normal development and a process of learning to eat it. We first look at food, then it is normal for children to want to explore it. Encourage your child to touch, explore and learn about their food before it gets to their mouth.
MYTH: Use Your Fork / Spoon
FACT: Eating can involve utensils, but if a child cannot touch their food, they may struggle to or refuse to eat it. Encourage utensils, but do not require utensils. You can also try these other things to replace spoons / forks and build interest in exploring food:
Other food to dip and scoop
MYTH: Eating is Easy
FACT: Eating is actually one of the most complex physical tasks we do and involves all four lobes of the brain working simultaneously. The frontal lobe is important for cognitive functions and control of voluntary movement/activity. The parietal lobe processes information about temperature, taste, touch and movement. The occipital lobe is primarily responsible for visual processing. The temporal lobe processes memories and integrates them with sensations of taste, sound, sight and touch.
Eating is also a sensory experience – a major one! Consider the sounds, tastes, temperature, vision, touch, smell, body movements (vestibular input) and jaw movements (proprioceptive input) while eating. Doesn’t sound so easy anymore, huh?
MYTH: Just Make Kids Eat
FACT: If your child has not yet developed the skills required or has a medical issue restricting their ability to eat, you can never “just make them eat.”
Many children are also overwhelmed with the entire sensory process of eating. Imagine putting yourself in the most chaotic situation that you can think of and then being told to write a novel while balancing on your head. This is how eating may feel to some children who are overwhelmed by each sensory system in their body.
MYTH: Do Not Eat with Your Mouth Open
FACT: It sounds polite but chewing is actually a process that involves the whole mouth and kids need to learn how that works. We not only need to allow them to chew with mouths open, but we need to show them how we chew – so manners out the window for a bit while we model for kids how to chew.
A mature chewing pattern is called a rotary chew. Imagine a cow chewing where it goes round and round. Now imagine a child doing that with his/her mouth closed! Go ahead and act crazy to show your child how to bite, chew, blow, suck, etc. That means open wide and use exaggerated movements, guys!
MYTH: Stay in Your Highchair
FACT: Mealtime should be in a structured environment but by no means does it have to be in a highchair. Other options could be a Bumbo seat, blanket on the floor, preschool height table and chairs, bean bag and table, etc.
Some rules to remember: mealtime needs to be in a defined space where your child isn’t grabbing food and grazing all day. Also, mealtime has a defined beginning and ending routine. For example, wash hands, go to the mealtime space, eat, clean up, and then all done.
Try these tricks consistently and you'll be winning them over in no time at all! If you need more tips, techniques or think it's time to consult with a professional for a skilled feeding evaluation, we would be happy to help.
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