A series of blog posts about picky eating, its underlying causes, how these are connected with speech and language and what to do to support a child.
Welcome to my mini-series of blog posts dedicated to mealtimes. Most parents and caregivers experience mealtimes to be challenging for various reasons. The most important thing I will try to help you with is to look past your child's behaviour and try to uncover the underlying causes of picky eating and how to help with these.
Why is a speech and language pathologist talking about picky eating? My speech and language therapy for a child is an all rounded approach which considers the "whole child" at the centre of everything. By the whole child I mean, I help parents and caregivers understand their child's brain as well as the body to create a holistic support routine. This becomes a stepping stone in a child's progress in verbal and non-verbal communication.
Speech and language and eating have A LOT in common i.e. mouth muscles, brain etc. Many children find eating difficult, and mealtimes can quickly become a source of stress. As parents, we are keen for our children to eat enough to grow up healthy. However, children often have different opinions about what they want to eat and what they enjoy eating. I often see families whose children struggle with eating and drinking, and how stressful mealtimes can be for them.
There are several reasons why children may struggle with mealtimes. One reason is oro-motor skills, which refer to difficulties with the movement and coordination of the mouth and tongue during eating. Another reason is sensory processing difficulties, which can make it challenging for children to tolerate certain textures, smells, or tastes of foods. One of the underlying causes can be food allergies and intolerances, reflux or other gastric issues. Finally, a stressful environment contributes to mealtime difficulties.
My first top tip for parents is to create a calm and positive environment during mealtimes. This can involve setting a regular schedule for meals, involving children in meal preparation and planning, and focusing on the social aspects of mealtimes. Additionally, it can be helpful to offer a variety of healthy foods and to avoid pressuring children to eat, which can increase their stress and anxiety. By creating a positive and stress-free environment, children are more likely to enjoy their meals and develop healthy eating habits.
I will dive deeper into how to create and maintain a no-pressure mealtime environment in my next blog post.
To be continued...