Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting the Process Started

Once we got the whole evaluating out of the way, we were able to start on the journey that took us here today.  A few nights ago I was eating a salad for dinner and my son asked me if I was eating lettuce (he as tried wilted lettuce from the Mexican food leftover before and I guess he liked it).  I said it was kale, kinda sorta like lettuce, and he didn't immediately dismiss it.  I asked him, would you like to try it? To my surprise he considered it for a minute, then he said "yes." Shocking! I gave him a small piece of raw kale from my salad (sans the dressing, knowing him it would turn him off) and he made weird faces but ate it.  I know that because I respected him and didn't add dressing to it I opened the door for next time.  I told him next time I would cook some for him and he can try the soft kind of kale.  I'm excited about it, we are expanding the food options and they are healthy!  
As for how you can also get your little one to be more adventurous with food, here's a start.

5 Things I learned from over a year of feeding therapy with my son:

It takes time to see progress - From the first time we stepped foot into the clinic to this day, I learned to be patient when it comes to teaching my son to try new foods.  Some times he would just flat out refuse to touch anything we offered, and I had to learn to respect that.  I had to tell myself I can always try again another time.  We get eager to see results and end up hindering progress.  Each kid has his own time.  If you are persistent and consistent, with time, you will see results. You will learn as you start this at home that many days you will want to throw in the towel and just give up.  Stay with it.

Be calm and collected - use a calm, non emotional voice to ask your kid to eat.  I think this is so hard to do because we are emotionally attached to them and we want them to eat something so badly that it is impossible to be objective with your kid.  On the other side, when they do take a bite, praise them.  Show you are pleased.  No need to go over the top, use of praise is good at the right time.  

Use phrases like:
- You want to try X first or Y? (giving choices is important)
- Take a bite.
- Eat this one now. 
- Try this one now.
- Good bite!
You're directing them with positive remarks, you're not begging.

Avoid using phrasis like: 
-You don't like "......"? 
-Why don't you eat "....."
- How about you try "...." 
- Can you eat "..."
- You want to try "...."?(the choice is this case is Yes or No)
These phrases give them the option to say no as the answer.

Let your kid play with food - This is part of the occupational therapy. In a time when your kid is not expected to eat, say after a mid morning or afternoon snack, let your kid play with foods that she has aversion to.  Get some dolls, toy dinossaur, cars or any other cheap, easy to clean and small toys that you don't mind getting dirty with food, set up a spot on the kiddie table (or a spot where the kid is comfortable*) and let her use her imagination.  Or hide a toy inside a bowl of spaghetti, peas, flour, sugar, smoothie, or any other texture that sets off your kid's defense mechanism.  Make it fun, show her that you are having fun. Don't be afraid of getting messy, you can clean later. Encourage her to look for the hidden toy.  Remember, there's no expectation for her to eat anything during this time, but if she's feels like trying it, let her. 

Use a timer - to help things along, set a timer and tell your kid he has until the timer beeps to eat his food.  When my son does not want to eat the food in his plate, he uses many tactics to avoid eating it.  He says he needs water (and gets out of the table to go get it even though he has some next to him), he turns his back to the table, he talks, and talks and talks... However, I know he is capable of eating a meal he likes in 20 mins or less.  He is just using delay tactics. Therapists only had a limited number of minutes with my son, so they suggested I introduce that at home. I did, and he hates the timer with a passion.  Perhaps if you introduce the timer during food play time mentioned above, you can train your toddler to know that when he hears the timer, it is time to stop.  That way he will be used to it when you're ready to start using it at the table for meal time.

Offer a reward - Offering rewards to give your baby an incentive to eat is one of the tricks therapists use.  It does not need to be food related(by that I mean candy).  It can be, especially in the beginning to entice your little one.  My son LOVES playing Disney games on the iPad.  So I set the expectation, when we have a new food in his plate, that if he tries the new food, he will be able to play for 30 minutes on the iPad.  He is the one starting to say "mommy, if I eat my new food I can play my games." This tactic works only if you're consistent - if you say I will give you "insert reward here" after you eat "insert food here" then do as such.  That means that if your kid did not eat what you asked him to, you will have to explain, in midst of all the tears of protest, that he did not get the reward because he did not eat his food and that he will have a chance next time.

As we attented these sessions week in, week out, we started seeing progress in front of the therapists.  That is really good, my picky eater was responding to treatment.  Do the same at home. Schedule a time to do feeding therapy, otherwise your busy mom life will get in the way.  I was paying for it, so I had to go.  Be as dedicated to it as if you were paying for the treatment.  You will start seeing results. Remember, it took us over a year to be able to see results at home as well.
As for the kale I promised to make for him, I did follow through.  I made some a few days later for dinner and placed some in everybody's plate.  He gobbled it up! He asked about it at first, but did not hesitate at all to eat it.  You can only imagine how happy this makes me!

*note on table/chair size: To have a better chance of success, use a kiddie table that is appropriate for your kid's size or use a booster seat on a chair or a comfortable high chair depending on the age.  It is so important to have their arms above the table.  This is especially hard at dinner time when they are so tired and are more likely to refuse eating even preferred foods.  Toddler's upper bodies and arms are not strong enough and they get heavy when they have to keep raising them above chest level to get to their food and then bring it to the mouth.  Just think about it, when you try to hold your arms up at shoulder level for some time they get heavy pretty quickly.  This is just an FYI that I didn't even think about before I saw the teeny tiny table and chairs they were using. The right furniture height kept my son engaged in the task at hand and will help your kid as well. 

Delay tactics come in very different expressions

Pictured above: He just needed to try to fit his feet throught the chair slats right at that instant - delay tactic at its finest. I offered to feed him because I could tell it had been a long hard day, I don't mind letting him sit on my lap and help him with some spoonfuls every once in a while.  He did eventually eat it all and played with the iPad for a few minutes. Our dinner that day was rice/beans/kambocha squash with corn/beef roast (he didn't want to try the squash).


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Some wonderful tips here.

    1. Thank you! I felt that sharing my struggles could help other families going thru the same issues!

  2. Helloo Im new to the site. First i would like to thank you for sharing your experience. My son is 4 years old and Very picky eater and I live in a place where there’s barely any therapy left ( South America). I still hope that as he gets older he starts eating a bit more, it has gotten to a point he only eats pizza and milk. Im so desperate!