Hi future food players!
I wanted to take some time in our first post to introduce myself, because hopefully many of you don't know me personally, but hopefully all of you want to!
My name is Shelby (just like the car, if you know what I'm talking about, Ford lovers!). I love food and playing, so why wouldn't I love food play? Well, I actually more than love it! I fully enjoy getting kiddos to touch new foods and eventually put the new food in their mouth, and enjoy it all through just play (so cool). By taking the approach of playing, kids are usually more adventurous and curious. They will most likely want to bring it up to their mouth and taste on their own (which makes your job easy!).
For work, I am an occupational therapy assistant and I work in children's homes to make their everyday life a little more independent. I work with some of the most amazing kids that make everyday so different and so fun. But I have found that so many of the kids I see weekly have many foods that they just don't enjoy, and I want to help solve that through all of the creative and fun ways of playing with their food. I know that for many of us, this was definitely not allowed at the table when we were younger. However, combining play with food is often helpful for kids. Kids grow and learn through play in their early years, and this is when you want to start. But if your child is a little older, there is still time! Don't stop reading now. We have come up with a couple of different strategies that you should use every single time that your child eats (trust me, they are easy, and you will want them for yourself if you don't enjoy new foods). These different methods are as follows:
The washer cup is simple, your child's favorite cup with their favorite drink. This is going to cover the taste of the unfamiliar food in their mouth. The idea is to take a lick or bite of the new food in order to gain exposure, and then quickly take a sip of the loved drink (this might sound like a familiar weekend tradition to some!). Having a desired flavor in your mouth can quickly change the taste, which will allow the child to cope with the thought of having a new food in their mouth without necessarily tasting it completely. This is a good starting tip and can be followed through their adventure of trying foods in the future as well.
All Done Plate--
Like many kids, I don't love when someone puts something on my plate that I am uncomfortable with or that I don't want to eat. This is when the all done plate will come into play. It is a special separate plate that will be near the child whenever they are eating. They will then transfer the less desirable food that was served on their dinner plate to the all done plate. Although they are not eating it, they are touching it and that is an important first step! For example, if broccoli is what the family is having as their veggie during dinner time, the child also gets a couple pieces of broccoli on their dinner plate, along with the food they enjoy and are planning to eat. They are told that they must transfer it to the all done plate if they are not interested in eating it or wanting it on their plate. Remember, this should be done at every meal. It can be the same food item every meal or different ones. I like using fruits or veggies that are on sale for the week, so if your child is not interested in them right away it doesn't seem like such a waste. But I don't think it will be a waste, as the exposure is great for them!!
If you have a family dog, this one is for you! You will want to make sure that your child develops a good relationship with the dog through playing and interacting before you introduce this next method. Once your child has a good playful relationship with your dog, including the dog in food play time can be helpful and fun. If the kid fully trusts the dog and the dog eats the food play items, the child may become interested in taking a turn (another plus - this is also great for practicing taking turns and empathy for your doggie friend). Anyways, playing with dogs is so fun, why not include food? As dogs are very motivated by food, have your child make a special "dish" for the dog. This might include some of the ideas in the blogs to come, or something that includes the dog's favorite food (this may or may not be a child's less desirable food). Whether your child likes the food that is being prepared for the dog or doesn't, this is still okay. They are touching and interacting with it, which is a win for you!
These three different methods are some that we will be referring to throughout our entire fun-filled blog journey, along with introducing some others. I can't wait to share this experience with you and your kiddo!
Feel free to share some pictures, ideas for the next food item, or any other thoughts with me. I would love to hear and see them all!
Your Food Play Facilitator,