Holiday meal times can sometimes be stressful for both picky eaters and their parents. The different smells of the various foods can often be overwhelming for a child with feeding difficulties. Children can still enjoy spending time with family! In order to reduce that stress, and make the holidays a time of fun and memories, we have some tips to help you successfully get through the meals.
Preparation:Prepare your child for family outings and gatherings. Bring snacks your child enjoys.Discuss the next day’s events and share stories and pictures of family members with whom your child might not be familiar.Keep a calendar of holiday events that your family will be celebrating. Kids can be excited for these upcoming holidays with a visual reminder. In the weeks before your big family dinner, have a smaller scale version of the meal. During this trial run, you can use techniques that your child may be familiar with to become more used to novel foods: such as touching, kissing, licking, and biting the foods to explore them. Have your child help write the lists and go to the grocery store to help with the shopping. When curating your menu, think about the textures that your child is successful with, as well as the textures that can cause difficulty. Choose a few dishes your child will feel more comfortable exploring. Also, think of ways you can switch up traditional dishes to better fit your child’s needs in terms of texture or flavorsShow them what you will be cooking, and what grandma and other family members might bring, etc. Ask them what they want you to make/contribute to the holiday meal.Have them assist in the kitchen as much as possible, even if it is only setting out the ingredients, measuring, mixing or setting the table. If being around the food is too difficult for your child, have them help create decorations for the dinner table so they can still be a part of contributing to the meal. These will be wonderful memories you will cherish forever.
Mealtime:Allow your child to help in food preparation or even placing food items on the table, without the expectation of them trying the food once seated at the table.Try to serve food family-style when possible during large holiday meals.Remember to keep portion sizes small. Simply trying a bite of each food is a huge step!Be consistent! Bringing a familiar sectioned plate for your child to use from home might also be helpful.Bring a dish or food item you know your child will eat if you will be having a meal at somebody else’s home. Do not force them to try something they’ve never tried before.Try to eat as close to routine mealtimes as possible (although this can be very difficult during the holidays and especially when not eating meals at home).
Following Mealtime:If possible, plan other activities that do not involve food. Bring crafts and games to play following mealtimes. Pinterest is an excellent source for craft and game ideas. Involve the whole family in an after-meal game night!
If you have any questions please ask your child’s speech therapist, feeding therapist, or your child’s physician. If you have any concerns with your child’s feeding patterns, please contact TEAM 4 Kids at 623-322-820 to schedule an evaluation. Happy Holidays!