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10 Tips for Positive Mealtime Experiences

Jun 07th, 2019 | by Katrina Sanchez, M.S., CCC-SLP
Katrina Sanchez, M.S., CCC-SLP

Katrina Sanchez, M.S., CCC-SLP

June 07th, 2019

While most people find mealtimes to be a time to enjoy your food with family, families of children with feeding challenges often dread mealtimes. Not to fear, you are NOT alone in this. Here are 10 techniques that can be applied to assist in making mealtimes more relaxed and enjoyable for your family.  

1. All manners are out the door. 

Even if your child is not eating by mouth yet, show them what your teeth and your tongue do with food. 

2. Start mealtimes slow.  

Give them 10 minutes to warm up without the pressure to eat — let them explore and see what they do on their own while you just supervise. 

3. Pick one spot. 

 Keep a consistent place in the house to have meals. If you find your child has built a negative association with that space, try changing spot at the table or add a fun new placemat.   

4. Follow 90-90-90.  

Ensure your child’s feet are on a flat, sturdy surface with knees and hips bent at 90 degree angles. Add support to their sides (we use rolled-up towels or pool noodles) if necessary to help keep their bodies up straight.  

5. Expose your child to varying tastes, smells, textures.  

It often takes more than 10 exposures to a food before a child may try it — don’t give up after the first few tries!  

6. Create a fun, positive routine to start and end meals.  

We like to start and end with a fun song while washing hands or kiss foods “hello” and “goodbye” to prepare for and end mealtimes.  

7. Make food fun. 

Remember kids learn best through play. Find creative ways to introduce, play with, and describe food (e.g., talk about their colors, shapes, textures; make foods into characters; read books involving food)  

8. Host your own Master Chef Junior!  

Cooking, messy food play, and activities involving touching of food without pressure to eat allows children to explore them in a non-threatening way. You can take them directly to the bath for clean up after. 

9. Avoid saying things like “mmm” and “yummy!”  

By saying “yummy!” during challenging food presentations, we may be ignoring their feelings and losing their trust if it’s something they are not enjoying yet.  

Try describing the food by it’s texture instead–“that was a little squishy, wasn’t it?” to keep language about food neutral.  

10. Treat yourself! 

Take those extra 5 minutes in the shower and remind yourself that you’re giving it all you’ve got. And then schedule your appointment with a NAPA Center feeding specialist, we are here to help your child succeed! 

Print this list out and use as a checklist on your fridge. I challenge you to check off at least one of these tips to help create more positive mealtime experiences. 

If you would like further information or to register for our new expanded NAPA Intensive Feeding Program, please contact us via email at info@napacenter.org, by phone at (424) 269-3400 or register directly here. 

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