Feeding Difficulties at School

Feeding Difficulties at School

As a feeding therapist, I often hear that school-age children are not eating their lunches at school.  Parents and caregivers show frustration and concern as their children continue to bring home “untouched” lunchboxes.  Back to school can be an extremely trying time for parents and children alike. Not only are our routines and schedules changing drastically, we are faced with new pressures and expectations.  Here are some common reasons that your child is not eating and school and some fun suggestions that might help.  

Reasons your child might not be eating at school

  • Time is limited, So many distractions- Most schools only give the kids around 15-20 minutes to finish their lunches. For slow eaters, children who are easily distracted, or those who love chatting with friends, this can be a big problem.  Not to mention, many of our children’s’ lunches are followed by recess. Who wants to sit and finish their food when they can play with their friends on the playground?
  • Quick Fix:  

    Contact the teacher-  It might help to send a short email to the teacher to make him/her aware of the problem.  They can ensure that the lunch monitor or teacher on duty checks in on your child at the lunch table.  They can also keep a closer eye on your child at snack time. Also, check to see if the student’s recess is before or after lunch.  Recess before lunch has many benefits including; working up an appetite and not rushing through lunchtime to hit the playground. Some schools also provide calmer, quieter rooms for the children to eat their lunch.  

    Make lunchtime fun-  There are so many quick and inexpensive ways to add a little pizzazz to your child’s’ lunch.  Cookie cutters can be used to cut sandwiches, meats, and cheeses into fun shapes. There are many “bento” style lunch boxes that offer fun compartments to separate different snacks and finger foods into.  Adding a simple handwritten note or joke is a sure way to brighten their day!

  • The containers and packaging are too hard to open – While there are typically lunch monitors walking around to help kids open their juices and packages, they simply cannot get to everyone.  Some “easily” packaged foods can be very difficult for their little fingers to open.  
  • Quick Fix:  

    Practice opening the packages at home.  This may sound silly, but children are a lot less likely to eat foods that they need help opening.  Having the children open these packages around you will help them feel more comfortable in the lunchroom.

  • They are uninterested or have difficulty with the foods that are packed. – We all want our children to eat a well-balanced diet, but school lunches might not be the best place to accomplish this goal.  Kids are less likely to eat non-preferred and unfamiliar foods when they are in the school cafeteria. Also, from an oral motor standpoint, packing foods like raw fruits and veggies can be very difficult for the child to eat.  
  • Quick Fix:

    Get your child involved in planning and packing their school lunch.  You would be surprised at how much children love to plan and prepare their lunches.  They may have seen snacks in their peer’s lunches that they would like to try. Try taking your child to the store to pick “a few” items that they would like to pack for the week.  When we give children a say in what they eat, it increases their chances of eating.  

    Make lunchtime fun.  There are so many quick and inexpensive ways to add a little pizzazz to your child’s’ lunch.  Cookie cutters can be used to cut sandwiches, meats, and cheeses into fun shapes. There are many “bento” style lunch boxes that offer fun compartments to separate different snacks and finger foods into.  Adding a simple handwritten note or joke is a sure way to brighten their day!      

     

    Lindsay Mastroeni, SLPA