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. 

 

Crawling & Crossing the Mid-Line in Infants

By Justine Sanders, TLC Infant Care Teacher

“You have to walk before you can run” is an old saying I’d like to amend. I’d have it read: “You need to crawl before you walk.” It is important for babies to learn to crawl. It is infinitely more beneficial for a child to learn to crawl than to skip ahead to walking. 

One of the biggest benefits of crawling is that when a child crawls, their limbs cross the mid-line. The mid-line is the middle of the body from head to toe. Every time a child crosses the mid-line, connections are built in the baby's brain. These connections become essential later in life for both gross motor development (used, for example, when reaching for objects) and fine motor development (used, for example, when eyes track words written on a page from left to right.) The brain receives input from both sides of the body and registers that transitions are being made. These transitions enable the brain to process incoming information more clearly. 

There are other ways to cross the mid-line in addition to crawling. Every time a baby brings something to its mouth, he or she is crossing the mid-line, so feeding becomes an opportunity for crossing the mid-line. Babies who like to pull off their socks and play with their feet are also crossing the mid-line. Even the act of passing a toy from the right hand to the left hand is crossing the mid-line. 

Why is it so important to crawl, then, if there are so many other ways to cross the mid-line? Many parents with older infants will tell you that they are not sure if they (the parents) are ready for crawling because they don’t know how they will keep up with their baby. There is truth to this sentiment. Babies love to explore and once they discover that crawling allows them to do this independently they are pretty much always on the go. As babies transport their little bodies from one end of the house to the other, discovering kitchen cabinets, overturning interesting objects, and leaving a trail of debris in their wake, they are crossing the mid-line through it all. Crossing the mid-line in these crawling romps helps infants make connections that may someday help them write a 30 page term paper, throw a discus in a state track and field competition, and keep their own crawling infants when they have grown into healthy adults.   


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Finding Inner Peace: Calming Choice Boards

By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist and YogaKids instructor

Transitions are difficult for everyone, kids and adults alike. It's hard to transition to something new – a new schedule, new school, new job, new season, new whatever! While it can be exciting, it can also be a bit anxiety-producing and unnerving.  This is especially true for small children, who often don't know what to expect from a new experience, new face, or just a new activity sequenced in the day's normal events.

Calming choice post-it's to pick from in stressful situations.

Calming choice post-it's to pick from in stressful situations.

During my routine Monday morning yoga class, I was reminded that my favorite part 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 transitions and all that is new to my family and the kids that I work with, and wishing that I could recruit and share this fantastic, relaxed, connected and organized feeling whenever I so desire!  Savasana -- such a nourishing, sweet, soul-satisfying pose. It helps me feel as though I can take on anything that life dishes my way!

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 right then? To help with homework, answer the phone, cook dinner, pick up 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 scream like a baby.

A calming-choice board in the Yogakids classroom.

A calming-choice board in the Yogakids classroom.

Not a very pretty picture, is it? Most of the time, I have enough wits about me to remember my strategies: take a break for a minute, spritz myself in a calming essential oil mist, do some alternate nostril-breathing, a forward-fold, a sun salutation... While I might not be able to enjoy savasana at this time, are there other yoga poses and tools that I can access to find the serenity within me? Ah, yes!  And these help me regroup and re-enter my world with a refreshed mind, an open heart, and a calmer sensory system.  

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 any moment. More and more often, children need strategies to learn how to calm themselves. How can I help my kids learn them?

One way is to more openly share when I am about to enter into a fight-or-flight response. This allows me to communicate with my family what I am trying to accomplish when I dive into a forward-fold! Another way is to create a choice board: a place for pictures or hand-written sticky notes of choices. In this case, calming choices that work for both myself and the others in my family.

I often use choice boards at work with the children and within classrooms as I find that the visual reminder can help more than a verbal cue to remember strategies. After all, when I am nearing a fight-or-flight moment, the last thing I want is for someone to suggest I calm down! With a visual reminder of options for calming choices, it empowers rather than recommends a choice. The key is making sure that the pictures or choices used on the board will work.

How do you know what will work? Put on your detective spectacles over the course of a day or so. 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.

A few calming yogakids pose choices

A few calming yogakids pose choices

For example, if they like rocking chairs, think of yoga poses that involve rocking, like Rocking Horse or Rock ‘n Roll.  If they self-regulate through the use of their mouths, consider deep breathing through Take 5, Breezing, or Sitali Breath. If they like the warmth and feel of being in a bath, try a 2-3 pound heated and scented rice pack as a strategy to calm.

Depending upon what you find that works, creating a calming choice board for your home (or your classes) can empower children to develop for themselves the art of self-regulation.

Flu Season & Enterovirus 68 in Preschools

By Katie Dueber, Pediatrician & TLC Board Member

As a mom of two young children and a pediatrician, this time of year always makes me nervous. As kids head back to school, they are eager to see their friends and teachers, catch up from the summer, and share their germs. Now, this may not be the first concern on everyone’s mind, but it certainly is at the forefront of mine. Being well-aware of germs is especially true this year, as we are seeing an early spike of a particularly potent respiratory virus.

Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68) is making headlines as it clears out classrooms and fills pediatric intensive care units. Its victims include our youngest patients as they are always more susceptible to respiratory illness, and also asthmatics. Kids with even mild asthma are really struggling with this illness and these are the kids that are often requiring hospitalization for supportive care. This virus is causing severe cold symptoms, cough, and in some patients, wheezing and respiratory distress.

This virus is not new, but the effect it is having on children this year seems to be. There has been a lot of media attention around this virus, adding to parental concern but also increasing awareness about the virus and precautions to take against it. The largest numbers of reported cases seem to be in Kansas City and Chicago, but Colorado certainly seems to be seeing its share. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and they typically cause mild diseases that are spread through the oral-fecal route. EV-D68 is also spread by mucus and droplets in the air.

Asthma is a risk factor for more severe illness. If your child is on a preventive asthma medication, please make sure that he or she is using it. If your child uses Albuterol, even occasionally, start it with any symptoms of cough or illness. Even if you child does not have asthma, this virus can make your child ill. Prevention is the best medicine, but if your child does get sick, use over the counter medications as instructed by your physician, encourage fluids, rest and keep your child at home.  This is a virus, which means antibiotics will not help, so do not expect your doctor to prescribe them, but have your child seen if he is not improving. And have him seen right away if he is having any difficulty breathing.

EV-D68 is not the same virus as influenza, but we will likely be seeing that all too soon as well! To help prevent the spread of respiratory illness, wash hands often with hot water and soap, drink plenty of fluids, keep your child home if she is sick, avoid others when they are sick and get your flu shot!

Sophia washes her hands with soap in her preschool class to help prevent the spread of germs

The Power of a Pledge: Yoga with Kids

by Mia Girard, TLC YogaKids instructor and Occupational Therapist

Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I love this quote and want people to remember from my interactions with them that I made them feel good on some level. Often I am reminded of this quote as I am planning and teaching my YogaKids classes, thinking of ways to help my YogaKids feel confident, celebrated, and validated in a memorable way.

For me, the YogaKids pledge is an important part of how I create a loving, safe and memorable community within my classes. I make a point to recite the pledge with the kids regularly. I find that it not only has special meaning for me, but also special meaning for them. For me, its importance lies in the fact that it delineates some of the expectations of our class, as well as the overall purpose for participating. For the kids, it becomes a consistent and routine activity that they can anticipate and participate in. It allows them to feel purposefully connected to the class, to their peers, to me, and to people and things in their world.

I also feel it is important to live by the pledge myself. If I simply treat the kids as the pledge suggests, I see that I have made them feel celebrated and honored in a memorable way. This is my job as a YogaKids teacher and I find it extremely important. As an Occupational Therapist, my classes include children of all abilities and our pledge has morphed and changed as the need arises. The pledge is as follows: 

  • I believe in myself.
  • I love and honor my body. 
  • I will do my personal best.
  • I will stay on my mat to keep us all safe.
  • I will be kind and gentle to myself and others. 
  • I can use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better. 

I have found that if I treat children in a way that honors and shows fidelity to this pledge, they not only remember me but more importantly, the pledge and the connectedness that we share in yoga. After all, yoga means to join together or unite. So, for me, the pledge is: 

  • I believe in them.
  • I love and honor their bodies. 
  • I acknowledge them doing their personal best (often).
  • I help to keep us all safe in class.
  • I am kind and gentle to myself, the children, and others.
  • I model and teach them to use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm themselves, energize themselves, and to help them feel better!

I remember realizing the meaning and importance of the pledge years ago in one of my first YogaKids sessions. One of my students was a beautiful child with cerebral palsy. She had limited use of her legs and feet and yet participated beautifully with modifications in every aspect of the class whether it was balancing poses, or Michaelangelo's Drawing with My Feet activity.

Her mother shared with me that one day she found her daughter upstairs with her dolls, playing. The girl had arranged her dolls in a circle just like the one we sit in during YogaKids, and was pretending they were in the midst of a YogaKids class. She picked up one doll, moved it gently up and down as if giving it life and movement, and said "I believe in myself.” She then picked up another doll, moved it up and down and said  "I love and honor my body.”  She continued this way, until the dolls had recited the entire pledge, word for word.

To hear that she incorporated the pledge into pretend play with her dolls made me realize that she felt connected, comfortable, and confident in our class. While her body presented her with significant challenges, she was able to rise above that and, at least in those moments, love and honor her body, her grace, and her beauty. When children bring yoga home and practice off the mat, it validates for me the connection between our classes, the YogaKids pledge, and Maya Angelou's quote, that "people will never forget how you made them feel." I hope that all children who take a YogaKids class leave feeling as strong and good as that little girl.

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TLC offers YogaKids classes throughout the year for all full-day preschool students, and as an after-school enrichment class for children up to age 12. To learn about TLC's programs for children eight weeks - 6 years old or YogaKids after-school program, call TLC at (303)776-7417.