5 Reasons Picky Eaters Should Play With Their Food

left to right: sponge doggie, green apple, blueberries, vanilla yogurt, dried raspberries
left to right: sponge doggie, green apple, blueberries, vanilla yogurt, dried raspberries

There are many reasons a child can be a picky eater. Often teasing out these reasons requires a feeding evaluation by a skilled therapist. No matter the reason behind picky eating, experience with foods through food-play is helpful for all picky eaters. Here are 5 reasons to teach your picky eater to play with their food.

1. Language

When your child knows how to talk about a food it stops being foreign and becomes something they know about, something they are even experts on. They’re much more likely to try a taste of something they weren’t sure about or ‘didn’t like’ when they know a lot about it and know how to talk about it.

2. Create Positive Experiences

When we pretend with food and talk about food using playful expressions we are creating positive experiences with foods. Often kids who are extremely picky or who have a diagnosed feeding disorder have had really stressful and possibly painful experiences with food. To move past negative experiences with food, try new foods, and eat a wider variety of foods kids need to have positive experiences with food.

3. Play = Practicing

Pretend play is an important building block for development. Children learn  and practice how to interact with the world through play. When they pretend with food, they are learning about food and ‘practicing’ interacting with food  so they will be more comfortable in the ‘real’ situations of mealtimes and snacktimes.

4. Familiarity

By talking about food and experiencing and touching foods, kids learn what to expect from those foods the next time they’re presented. There are 32 steps to becoming comfortable enough with a new food to actually eat it. We use all of our senses to learn about what is safe and good for us. Food-play allows kids to experience new foods with all of their senses, get familiar with it so they will eventually be comfortable eating it.

5. Control

Food-play puts a food situation in a child’s control. Usually when we sit kids down with food, they are expected to eat it. In food play activities there is no stress, no pressure to eat. They get to set the pace and intensity of the activity. If they’re comfortable touching a food, but not tasting it, that’s a great step! Let them enjoy this control. When kids feel comfortable with a food and safe they are in control of a situation it can feel safer to try new foods.

So, set aside 30 minutes or less, and have a fun food-play snack-time! There are lots of ideas to get you started on the learn to love food blog or get creative with whatever you have in your kitchen.

Enjoy and happy food play!

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