Parent Toolkit Nights: Expanding Our Toolkit

By Renee and Russell Schoenbeck; Parents of TLC toddler Riley, age 2

 Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

We love TLC. Let’s just throw that right out there. We love the mission. We love the philosophy. We love that we KNOW our daughter’s life is being enriched by her time spent at TLC. So, when opportunities at TLC present themselves, like Parent Toolkit Nights, we are eager to participate. 

Let us explain: Parent Toolkit Nights occur 4-6 times per academic year and are available to parents of students at TLC (prospective parents: this is a wonderful benefit). The Toolkit nights are 60 minutes and are lead by a teacher and a therapist who discuss helpful strategies that are taught in school, then offer ways to incorporate those strategies at home. 

Yes, really. The experts in early childhood education are not only willing to teach your child all day long, but they are also willing to teach YOU how to work with your kid (while providing you with snacks, laughs, and childcare). We feel like we could end this right here and invite you to join us, but let’s press on. 

 Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Toolkit nights are spent reviewing things like visual schedules, calm down strategies, problem-solving strategies and more, in a way that bridges the gap from school to home, and helps us help our kids with life-long strategies. The strategies help us communicate with our children better, and, heck, even our significant others (because suddenly people become a lot less annoying when they say “Geeze, my engine is running so slowly!”)

The teachers and therapists put a lot of time into these nights, and not only do they have a giveaway (we won timers at the last Toolkit night!), but they always have some kind of project or handout that you can make and take home to begin introducing the strategies at home immediately. This past ToolKit night, we received starter Calm Down Kits, complete with a squishy, chew, and lavender-infused weighted pad.  Not to mention, the evening is filled with other parents who are just as grateful for the information as you are. 

At the last Toolkit night, Miss Jen talked about how the trickle-down effect works with our children within the community. If our kids can learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, communicate effectively, and make good choices, then when they interact with other kids, they model that behavior, and it spreads. How can we set our kids up to be part of this wonderful trickle-down effect? By learning. By being involved. By bridging the gap. By extending the lessons that our children are learning at school, to our home.

We are raising the future, and TLC is setting us up to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times the words “If we had access to these skills when our kids were younger…” have been uttered. We are lucky to have access to this information, and we are lucky to have teachers and therapists willing to dedicate the time to teach us.

We hope you’ll join us for the next Toolkit night on Thursday, April 26, 2018, for some snacks, laughs, and learning. 

P.S. Don’t forget, there is free childcare! 
 

Letting Wait Time Happen

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

 Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

As an OT, I have gained much wisdom from the co-treatments I get to have with my friends, the TLC speech therapists. By working as a team with the speech therapists, I have learned more about the kiddos I work with as well as myself. In one area in particular, the growth has not only been tremendously beneficial for me but also challenging.  

Let’s start with the fact that I can be a little bit of a talker. I love to encourage, give praise, give direction (and sometimes re-direction) and can do so in a highly animated way. All great, but sometimes overwhelming for the listener. I have realized that sometimes I am so busy filling quiet spaces that I am not giving the child ample time and space to process and react to what is being said. So one thing that I have had to learn and practice is the art of WAIT TIME.  

Some kiddos can process all of the information and flurry of activity that we give them more quickly, while others need some time to take in the information, process it, and then do something with it. Innately, I know this; I talk about the importance of processing time frequently. Putting it into practice can be a little harder. The bottom line is that we all benefit from having some space and time to act.

“Go get your shoes,” or “I wonder what color that is?” or “Let me see you jump!” or “ready, set…….”  The recommended wait time before encouraging a response is around five seconds.  Five seconds? That doesn’t sound like much. However, when really giving wait time to a child (or adult), it can feel like an ETERNITY of quiet when you're waiting for a response. The response you're waiting on could be following a direction, answering a question, making a comment, or making a choice.  

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five….

What I have found is that the challenge with wait time is my own challenge, and that if I do not choose to fill in the spaces with more information or by rephrasing the direction I just gave, it allows time for the response I am looking for as well as other productive and creative things to emerge. My advice, then, is to try to remember to always count to five when waiting for a response from a child you're interacting with. Sometimes, if we give them the space to think and process, they'll surprise you with the wonderful thoughts and ideas that go through their minds ...if we give them space and quiet to let those thoughts form.
 

Teaching Babies to Self-Regulate Themselves to Sleep

 When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

;By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

Sleep is so important to our everyday wellbeing. Babies, children, and adults all need sleep, along with food, to be self-regulated. Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and control body functions as well as maintain focus and attention. Self-regulation happens differently over the many stages of our lifespan. Self-regulation in an infant encompasses how an infant deals with a disruption (for example, a loud television) and regains control of their behavior so they can focus on what they're doing (nursing, eating, playing, etc.). In a preschooler self-regulation looks at how a child plays with others, learns to share and take turns.

If a child doesn’t have a healthy sleep and waking pattern, it makes it hard for them to learn. In babies we tend to see two issues with sleep that can cause problems with self-regulation:

1.    Fragmented sleep – many short periods of sleep, but not good long sleep cycles and

2.    Too much sleep, especially during the day. This frequently suggests a developmental issue. Daytime is when sensory stimulation occurs and the sleeping baby is not stimulated.

Parents and caregivers play a vital role in how babies learn to sleep. The amount of support given in the beginning impacts how much caregiver involvement is needed later on. This means if we teach babies early how to fall asleep in a healthy, self-regulating manner, the better off they are for sleep learning. It’s important for the caregiver to recognize:

–   Their decreased role in helping a baby to sleep;

–   Recognizing sleep cues and conditioning;

–   The infant's ability to self-regulate.

Having a consistent place to sleep is another important key to sleeping. Young infants have few self-regulatory behaviors, but as we teach them self-soothing techniques – pacifier, lovey – they become more competent self-soothers. Crying it out doesn’t work because babies don’t have the skills to self-regulate, calm, and then fall asleep on their own.

In the first few months of life babies show clear signs of sleepiness:

–   Yawning

–   Glazed eyes

–   Rubbing eyes

–   Heavy eyelids

–   Decreased sucking during feeding

–   No, or less, interest in interacting

–   Turning away from stimulation in the environment

–   Body movements become less organized

–   Fussy behavior

It’s important to recognize these cues and respond to them while the “sleep gate” is open. If you don’t catch the sleep cues within 15 minutes, “tired is wired.”

Place a drowsy baby in the crib and stay close by without touching the baby. A self-regulating baby will suck fingers, look around and then fall asleep. If the baby cries, wait for a time and then approach with a comforting voice.

If your baby continues to cry, approach and pat, but don’t pick up. Provide reassurance with your voice. If crying persists, re-enter the sleeping area with a “boring” visit. Stand close by, but don’t interact with the baby.

Encourage naps when babies are full. It’s easier to fall asleep with a full belly rather than after a baby has been stimulated with play. Between 6-8 months separation anxiety is heightened so parents are encouraged to move baby out of their room before this period if they are sharing a room.

Routines create predictable patterns. Babies with bedtime routines develop into toddlers and preschoolers with predictable bedtime routines. Sleep in the same location every night. Start to power down an hour before bedtime. Read books, play soft music, have a small snack, and other calming activities are pieces you can add to a bedtime routine.  Developing a consistent bedtime routine is key!

Happy sleeping!

Read more about cultivating healthy sleep habits in children:

Switching Hats: Teacher to Parent

By Amanda Brunning, TLC Preschool Teacher & Parent

 TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

I have been working with and teaching children with special needs and their families for the past eight years. I have been through many emotional roller coasters with parents and have been a part of many conversations where parents just needed to vent and I was happy to listen. I tried to be as much help as I could, but before becoming a parent myself, my view was limited and I couldn't say that I knew what it was like to parent a child with a disability full time.

Teachers in early childhood have kids from four to eight hours a day before they go home and we're off duty. We work with the children in a controlled setting and on a consistent schedule. We have extensive training and on-hand tools that we can draw from and utilize when a child is having a hard time. Life outside the classroom - with families, in public places - is very different and far more unpredictable than classroom life. As a teacher, I have preparation and immediate assistance for handling trying situations and behavior on top of my primary job of helping teach children educational skills and positive social behaviors,  but when a person becomes a parent, there's very little preparation for the next 18+ years of caring for and raising children of any ability. Children don't come with handbooks, and parents have to learn as they go.
 
My husband and I had been going through the adoption process for several years, and nine months ago we were matched and placed with a 7-month-old little boy with Down syndrome. I would love to say - with all of my experience and degree in early childhood and special education - that I was prepared. In truth, I did not feel prepared at all. I knew that this beautiful little boy would need pediatric therapies and that TLC would be the perfect away-from-home-home for him when I went back to work, and that the therapists would work with him both at our house and in the TLC infant nursery, and that was a huge relief when I felt overwhelmed. I was so thankful for all the help from my co-workers in getting his therapies and early interventions in place and for helping the process of transitioning our son into our home go as smoothly as possible.

After he arrived, every day was a new experience and a new visit to a new doctor. In the first few months of having our little boy we saw so many different doctors and with each doctor we felt overwhelmed at what this new doctor could say or what that visit could bring. His therapist became my go-to when I was unsure what advice to take, what direction to go, or when I was trying to figure out if something going on with him was normal for his diagnosis, or when I needed guidance on what I needed to do to help him grow and develop. His infant teacher at TLC is my other go-to when I have a parenting/infant question, and I no doubt ask her a million questions a day. Debbie (the TLC infant teacher) has also listened to me vent about everything from difficulties getting him to sleep to doctors appointments that we came away with no answers or nerves about surgery. These people have become part of our support system and we are so thankful for them. In stepping into the role of parent of a child with special needs, I'm finally getting to walk in the shoes of the parents of kiddos I've worked with throughout the years, and I feel even more connected to them and struggles that come with parenting young children.
 
Switching hats to the parent roll has opened my eyes to so much of what families with children with special needs can be going through. I hope that my new roll as this beautiful little boy's mommy can help me grow as a teacher and better support the children and families better that come into my classroom.

Through all the struggles, the late nights, spit ups, and parade of questions, I wouldn't change a thing, and I'm so grateful to my TLC support group.
 

Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater

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Children can be tougher critics than Michelin inspectors at meal time, making it difficult to figure out how to get necessary nutrients off their plates and into their tummies. Chronic pickiness becomes even more concerning when worrying whether your child is a typical picky eater or has a selective eating disorder. Some signs to look for to help determine if your child is more than just a picky eater include:

  • A restricted range of foods willingly eaten (usually less than 20).
  • Crying when presented with new foods as opposed to simply pushing the food around or away.
  • Refusing groups of foods with similar characteristics (no soft textures, no vegetables, etc.)
  • Never eating with the family and/or always having a separate meal.

If you suspect your child’s picky eating goes beyond what’s healthy for a varied, balanced diet, and your child isn’t showing signs of growing out of their pickiness, a pediatric therapist can help. Therapists, like those at TLC, can help children learn to tolerate new textures and tastes in food, help decrease a child’s anxiety at mealtime, address physical hindrances to eating safely, and more.

Wherever your child lands on the spectrum of pickiness, here are a few tips to help your child better enjoy mealtime, embark on new food adventures, and ingest more nutrition from a wider variety of foods:

  • Keep meals and snacks on a schedule. Kids will be more likely to try new foods if they’re hungry and know the mealtime routine. Set daily times for three meals and two snacks, so your child will learn to anticipate when food is coming, and how long they’ll have to wait if they choose not to eat what’s on their plate.
     
  • Let children feed themselves. Children like the independence of being able to feed themselves, and can better self-monitor their portion sizes and when they’re full. If there are multiple offerings on the plate, the child can also have the power to choose what items on the plate they wish to eat.
     
  • Wait. This one may be the hardest on the list. If you push the child to eat, they’ll resist. If you make a show trying to encourage the child to eat, they’ll not eat to keep the show going. If you applaud and reward when they do eat, they’ll learn that delaying eating merits praise. So the best thing to do? Set the food down, and wait for the child to show interest (or not) on their own.
     
  • Don’t allow old standbys to be an equal option to new foods. When plating, add a mix of new and favorite foods (while keeping a balance of protein, veggies, fruits, and high-fiber starches in each meal), while keeping the serving size of an old favorite small enough that won’t be enough to fill up on and ignore the new food. The more new foods you introduce to your child early on, the less picky they’re likely to be when they’re older, so keep those new foods in rotation.
     
  • Put dinosaurs on the table. Or a book. Or a small toy. My daughter likes to alternate between eating her food and dancing rubber dinosaurs across the table. This helps keep her happy when she wants to take a break from eating. She’s also been known to use the dinosaur’s tail to stab the food like a fork.
     
  • Let kids be involved. Whether it’s standing at the counter with you and “cutting” up a banana while you cook or letting them choose from two options what they’d like to eat, having a child involved in the meal selection and preparation process increases their investment in mealtime, and thus their engagement.
     
  • Tell a story before or along with the meal about the meal. Children are wired for stories, and incorporating the meal prep process, the eating process, and how the food nourishes the body into a story can help get kids excited to eat their food.
     
  • Make meal time play time. Let a child touch, poke, smash, and explore new foods. Helping a child get used to new foods is the first step towards taking a bite. Encourage play by letting children roll peas across a table, build with carrot sticks, mold rice into shapes, make faces on their plate, and more. Help your child associate meals with joy.
     
  • Let your child determine when they’re finished. Even if you don’t think your child has had enough to eat, respect their communication of “finished,” whether its verbal, a head shake, sign language, or another signal.
     
  • Feed each other. Allow your child to give you a bite of food (or three), then see if they’ll let you give them one.
     
  • Sneak the vegetables in from time to time. My toddler never turns down a banana zucchini muffin.
     
  • Start early, be patient, and model healthy eating habits. It takes repeated exposure to some new foods for a child to begin to tolerate, and even like, that food. Present new foods often as soon as your child is eating solids, be patient if they refuse to try the food and don’t force them to eat it, and model eating it for them (with gusto).

It may try your patience, but for the typical picky eater, repeated exposure and working to make meal time enjoyable will pay off as a child grows and their palate expands. If your child continues to insist on an extremely limited diet, demonstrates continued extreme resistance toward new foods, isn’t getting the proper nutrition or is failing to gain adequate weight, it may be time to get some help. Talk to your pediatrician and schedule a consultation with a pediatric therapist.

Here’s wishing many licked-clean plates in your child’s future!
 

Finding Calm through Yoga

By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist & YogaKids Instructor

During my routine Monday morning yoga class, I was reminded that my favorite part of practice is savasana. To me, this final pose is like a delicious dessert, something to savor at the end of a really yummy meal. I found myself lying there thinking about springtime, change, and new beginnings, and wishing I could recruit and share this fantastic, relaxed, connected, and organized feeling whenever I so desire!  The spring is a time of year full of transitions for myself, my family and also the kids that I work with at the TLC Learning Center.  Savasana, such a nourishing, sweet, soul-satisfying pose, helps me feel as though I can take on anything that life dishes my way! 

Finding Peace in a Busy Schedule

So then, after class, I began to think about how I can accomplish this task, using yoga like the YogaKids pledge reminds us: “anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better.” I am reminded of my most difficult time of day, the after-work pre-dinner time frame when I am running low on patience, life gets briefly super busy, and my sensory system is most sensitive and fragile. Doesn’t it seem like everyone needs a bit of you then? To help with homework, answer the phone, cook dinner, pick up a something at the store, go through the mail, see who is at the door, answer a text message, etc.? Sometimes I feel as though if one more person needs my attention I am either going to run for the hills or cry like a baby. Not a very pretty picture, is it?  As an occupational therapist I am more aware than most of my sensory system; what calms and soothes it when I am frenzied, what alerts it when I am drowsy, and what disturbs it and sends me into a fight or flight response. Most of the time I have enough wits about me to remember my strategies: take a break for a minute or two, spritz myself in a calming essential oil mist, do some alternate nostril breathing, a forward fold, a sun salutation or two. While I might not be able to enjoy savasana at this time there are other yoga poses and tools that I can access to find the serenity within me. I have ways to regroup and re-enter my world with a refreshed mind, an open heart, and a calmer sensory system.  

Sharing Calming Choices with Children

Not all children are able to do this. In fact, many are not. One of my favorite things about YogaKids is that it gives us the opportunity to teach children about the art of self-regulation – the ability to calm or energize to meet the demands of the environment at that moment. More and more often children need strategies to learn how to calm and center themselves. While we adults may have developed many strategies without even being aware of them, children benefit from learning strategies from us! So maybe in my kitchen in the evenings, I can more openly share that I am about to enter into a fight or flight response, and communicate with my family what I am doing when I start my ‘Finger Flowers’ deep breathing and why it helps me! Maybe I create a spot on my fridge or wall for pictures or hand-written sticky notes of my favorite calming choices to remind myself and empower my family to build upon and use them!  

So put on your detective spectacles over the course of a day or so and see what your children do to calm themselves. Do they rock in a rocking chair, chew gum, take a bath, swing on the swing set, ask for a hug? From their choices, see what you can glean to enrich the sensory opportunities they are seeking and expand upon them. For example, if they like rocking chairs think of yoga poses that involve rocking like Rocking Horse or Rock ‘n Roll. Do you own a child-sized rocking chair, and might this be a perfect gift at a birthday? If they self-regulate through the use of their mouth, consider if deep breathing through Take 5, Finger Flowers, or Polar Bear Pose might be good choices for them. If they like the warmth and feel of being in a bath, try offering them a 2-3 pound heated and scented rice pack as a strategy to calm. In your time with your child, notice what helps him or her to settle down.  Share these observations with your child so that you have encouraged the ability to self-regulate within AND outside of the coziness of your home.  Empower children to develop for themselves the art of self-regulation!

Finger Flowers

A Scary Story by TLC Alum Hunter

Hunter is a TLC alum who received pediatric therapy services from age two to 12. Hunter's mom reports that he's doing great in school and recently wrote a Halloween story he was very proud of. We're proud of the story and of Hunter, so thought we'd share it with you!

Scary Story

John can see the old, abandoned lighthouse from his bedroom window. One night, the lantern in the lighthouse flicks on, and begins rotating. In front of the light, walks a shadowy figure…spooky. Is it the old lighthouse keeper, the one who disappeared years ago? John is so spooked that he yells for his parents. His dad comes into the room and John points at the lighthouse. “Look at the lighthouse!” he screams.

His dad turns on the bedroom light and looks out the window. The lighthouse is dark and the light isn’t spinning anymore. “What are you pointing at?” his dad asks.

John looks at the lighthouse, but there’s nothing there. “There was a really creepy ghost. He had a really creepy cloak on,” John says.

“Calm down. It’s nothing. Go back to sleep,” dad says, but John can still feel the creepiness as dad leaves the room and shuts out the light.
John doesn’t go back to sleep. He is worried the lights on the lighthouse will come back on again and he keeps thinking he sees a ghost near his window. He thinks the doors might open automatically. 

Something hits his window and the window glass shatters. John screams. Dad comes running back into the room. 

“What happened here?” he asks, but before John can answer a creepy shadow passes by the broken window. Dad reaches to turn on the lights but they don’t come on. 

John, shivering in fear, just points at the window.

Dad stays in the room with John until 3 in the morning when the power comes back on. The lights turn on, and the water in the sinks in the bathroom and kitchen starts running. 

“Why is the water running?” Dad asks. He tries to shut off the water but it won’t shut off, so the house starts flooding. Dad grabs John and starts to run outside. After three minutes, the water stops. The floor is wet but they go back in the house to clean things up. The clean up takes a long time, and by the time they’re done, John has to go to school.

At school, all of John’s friends are talking about the power being out. At all of their houses on the same street, glass shattered, power went out, and flooding happened. 

“It can’t be a coincidence,” John says.

After school, John and his friends are talking in the hallway and trying to figure out the mystery. John tells them what he saw at the lighthouse, so they decide to investigate. They reach the lighthouse but they notice something is wrong. There is a fence around the lighthouse when there never was one before. The friends decide to climb over the fence. Once they are inside the fence, they hear a bell ring, and the fence becomes electrified. They are completely surrounded. After five minutes, the bell goes off again and the fence is not electrified. They think they have five minutes to get over the fence. They go as fast as they can. As they are running away from the lighthouse, they hear a ghostly voice say, “Get out of here and leave me alone!”

The friends decide that’s a good idea, so they never go back to the lighthouse again.

 TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

The Listening Program

By Lindsey Blechle, TLC Occupational Therapist 

Sound is all around us. We are constantly processing auditory input from our environment. As I type this I can hear cars driving down my street, a train in the distance, the wind coming in my window, my computer humming, birds chirping, and an occasional alert on my phone. It’s a lot to take in as I try to focus on this one task. 

The act of hearing is passive; it is simply the ability to sense sound. The act of listening is active; it is the ability to take in and filter out sound. Auditory processing is dynamic; it is how the brain organizes what it hears. Children with sensory processing challenges often struggle with all three forms of auditory input. The act of hearing may be overwhelming when the sensory system perceives sounds as being too loud. The act of listening to directions in a classroom may be challenging when classmates are talking, pens are clicking or the hallway is noisy. For children that are struggling with the act of hearing and listening, processing auditory information correctly at a higher level adds a whole new challenge. I became a certified provider of The Listening Program because of the positive effect I saw the program make in pediatric patients with auditory sensitivities. 

The Listening Program by Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) is a therapeutic music program focused on improving sound brain fitness. The music is performed by ABT’s own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble. The music then undergoes neuroacoustic modifications to provide the sound contrast needed to train and improve sound perception.  These modifications improve discrimination, reduce sensitivities and direct attention. 

The Listening Program modification techniques work with the brain’s plasticity to improve overall function and shows benefits in the following areas:

Perception                        Attention                              Memory
Motor coordination         Language                            Listening
Auditory processing       Spatial awareness             Flexibility
Problem solving               Decision making               Self-regulation
Sensory processing        Sequencing                         Inhibition
Social engagement        Creativity                             Brain health 

 

The Listening Program includes many therapeutic programs to target specific areas of intervention:

  • Level One – balanced training adaptable for all listeners that focuses on all frequency zones (full spectrum, sensory integration, speech and language and high spectrum). This is the best program for children with sound sensitivities and the most recommended for TLC Learning Center’s pediatric population. 
  • Sleep – sound neuroscience for a restful night’s sleep 
  • Sound Health – Music of Learning, Music for Concentration, Music to Relax, etc. 
  • This music can be played over speakers and throughout all environments
  • Music for Babies – Sleepy Baby, Peaceful Baby, Playful Baby and Cheerful Baby
  • Spectrum – foundational training with a focus in the sensory integration frequency zone, for the extreme sensory sensitive listener. 
  • Achieve – intermediate to experienced training with a focus in the speech and language frequency zone. 

The Listening Program is now available at TLC Learning Center as another therapeutic tool for our pediatric clients. 

Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.
— Yehudi Menuhin

For more information visit The Listening Program, or contact TLC for information on occupational therapy and The Listening Program. 

How to Help the Pickiest Eaters

By Shari Karmen, Occupational Therapist and TLC Therapeutic Services Manager

Oh the picky eater! Some kids are super picky, some are “normally” picky, and some are selective or problem feeders.

Normal picky eating typically begins between 18 months and three years and is usually over by six years old. These kids will have food jags where they want to eat PBJ for lunch every day. They are looking for control and typically thrive well despite their picky eating habits.  Some kids are more picky and will want PBJ for lunch every day, and then will switch it to grilled cheese, but with an occasional PBJ thrown in.  Selective or problem feeders will want a PBJ, but it must have a certain type of bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Then they will decide they no longer want it. The difference is they will not add a new food to the repertoire, but instead will limit what foods they will eat even further.

Picky eating can be stressful for a parent who worries about their child's nutritional intake and teaching them to eat and try a varied diet. There is help for the parents of picky eaters, though. Below are a few ideas you can try at home.

Ten Ideas for Feeding Your Picky Eater:

1.    Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. This includes making a shopping list together, going to the store together, wearing an apron to help prepare food, and then letting your child help in preparing the food. The child's task can be as simple as tearing lettuce for a salad, as long as they are involved with the process.

2.    Use fun props and place settings for mealtimes such as colorful cups, fun placemats, and curly straws. Give you child choices and control in what utensils they use (the color of their plate, etc.)

3.    Keep a mealtime routine. Have meals at the same time every day. Create routines within the meal such as washing hands, setting the table, and then clearing food away after the meal.

4.    Eat with your child. Mealtimes are social so talk at the table, but not about what your child is not eating! For tips on engaging your child in conversation, see some of our previous posts on speech and language activities for kids.

5.    Use the timer on your phone so that your child knows how long the meal will last. Have an alert go off 2-5 minutes before the 20-30 minutes dedicated to mealtime is up. This helps everyone know that there is an ending to the meal.

6.    Watch mealtime language. Don’t bombard your child with questions or constantly say “take a bite”. Talk about the color of the food, how you can hear him crunching, and the texture of the food. Read some of our tips on using responsive language with kids.

7.    Focus on the meal rather than the TV, smart phones, and other electronic devices. You can have music playing, but keep the TV and toys away from mealtime.

8.    Reward your child for positive behavior outside of the mealtime with non-food items. Feeding can be very emotional, and linking food with a system of rewards can have a negative outcome for some kids.

9.    Only put a small amount of food on your child’s plate. Sometimes seeing three servings of three different foods can be overwhelming. 

10.    Encourage your child to try new foods. If he can tolerate the food on his plate without eating it, that’s success. Slowly up the ante by having your child touch, lick, and/or kiss the food. Eventually he will take a bite. Remember it takes 20 tries before a child likes a food.

If you feel like there are other factors impeding your child’s ability to eat, seek help from an Occupational Therapist or Registered Dietitian. An Occupational Therapist addresses motor skills, sensory components of eating, how to use your muscles in your mouth from feeding, and much more to help children move away from the habits of selective or problem feeding. 

 

July Speech & Language Activities

By Fawn Gold, TLC Speech and Language Pathologist

TLC Speech Therapist Fawn Gold has created a calendar of activities to engage your child in speech and language development this summer. Try any of the activities below to help your child build conversational skills and verbal communication while you enjoy the long days together.