Tips On Helping Picky Eaters Try New Foods and Enjoy Mealtimes

How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food? How to make mealtimes a happy time in your family even with a picky eater? Who better to ask than  Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, author of  Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! Practical and Surprising Tips from a Pediatric Feeding Specialist  and executive producer of CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs That Create the Joy of Food.

Melanie Potock was my guest on The Coffee Klatch Tweetchat when I was moderator and this interview took place on Twitter with its 140 character restriction. We learned about Melanie and her successful book and CD and our feeding specialist tweeted informative answers to parents trying to make “mealtimes a happy time” in their family. Here is part of our Twitter Interview.

Lorna: Welcome to Tweetchat, Melanie Potock! Tell us about your work as a speech language pathologist. (I had to look up CCC -SLP = Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology).

<< Melanie Potock >> I’m a speech language pathologist who specializes in “feeding”.  I treat wonderful kids ranging from those with special needs to those who are just, well, picky eaters! I am now also a National Speaker on picky eaters, joyful mealtimes and related topics. I am the mother of two glorious girls: one who was quite picky and one who ate everything. I’m married to my best friend, Bob, who is also my IT guy, my mechanic and chief dishwasher… a great Dad too!

Book for Picky Eaters - Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids:How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food!Lorna: What did you want to accomplish with your book, Happy Meals with Happy Kids?

<< Melanie Potock >> Many parents are missing essential information that makes a difference in helping their kids try new foods and become adventurous and joyful eaters.  My book provides information for EVERY parent. Parents will find answers to many of their questions, these are just a few of the topics covered:

  • How to position a child correctly in a high chair.
  • How to drink from a straw by age one.
  • Which spoon to use.
  •  Why and how to stop mealtime debates.
  • How to praise and how to wait for the desire behavior.
  • How to progress one step at a time.

Lorna: My grandchildren and I love your CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs That Create the Joy of Food. How is it an extension of your book?

<< Melanie Potock >> The CD packaging includes tips from me on how to encourage adventurous eating in your child! The lyrics to many songs focus on the joy of eating all kinds of food. The title song – “Dancing in the Kitchen” is about the sensory aspects of cooking and eating with lots of kitchen sound effects! Song samples at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jhlangdon   Have a listen! Dancing in the Kitchen was considered for 2012 Grammy nomination! It didn’t make it to top 5 nominees, but I am so proud it is among the top CDs for children!

Question: Hello from Austin, Texas, I have an 11-year old daughter who is a picky vegetarian with sensory sensitivities. She has Synesthesia with food also!  (Synesthesia means that when a certain sense or part of a sense is activated, another unrelated sense or part of a sense is activated concurrently. For example, when someone hears a sound, he or she immediately sees a color or shape in his or her “mind’s eye.” People that have synesthesia are called synesthetes. Some may perceive tastes as sounds…I am frustrated with my daughter because she will not eat much meat (animal thing) but won’t eat beans either. Do you think Texture is the main issue?

<< Melanie Potock >> Texture is tricky! Start with a pea size piece and place it directly on a molar tooth, chew once and chase with water. That’s the first step. When you start with a pea size of anything, kids build up confidence. Then, progress to bean sized (even for beans!)

With meat, it becomes a gummy mess. Lean meats are most difficult. Start with a pea size bite of dark meat. Sometimes dips help… remember pea size and water after.

Yes, mixed textures (floating in liquid) are really hard for kids. By the way, Stage 3 foods for babies cause problems for some kids; therefore you can just skip them!

Question: One participant tweeted, “I  had HUGE problems with swallowing and choking. Took me forever to learn to swallow a pill (age 40 or so). Finally I learned to swallow pills by using NO WATER. Water just got my mouth mixed up. I’ve never seen anyone recommend swallowing pills “dry” but it worked for me. Drop it down your throat and swallow.”

<< Melanie Potock >> Swallowing pills is hard if you push your tongue forward, rather than up above your teeth. Water makes that worse, you made a good observation. Here’s a trick to see if a child is pushing his tongue forward and not up.  Have him take a sip of water and clench his teeth. Instruct him to open his lips with a smile and swallow. Does this make him squirt water?  If so, the child is tongue thrusting and this makes it hard to swallow efficiently. To change a tongue thrust, an oral facial myologist can help. Insurance often covers it. A feeding therapist can help break it down into steps until the child is swallowing successfully.

Question: Even with kids who eat some foods, tolerating the presence of new foods and trying new food can Music to help picky eaters: CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs That Create the Joy of Food by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPbe a long process and makes mealtimes a happy time quite difficult?

<< Melanie Potock >> Yes, and put “normal” food on his plate with a desired food. Start with controlling what is on his plate, the desired foods and the new food. That is your baseline and say, “We all have XXX on our plate tonight.” It is tricky and well explained in Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids.”

Bribing, pleading and demanding won’t get a kid to LIKE a new food! Watch The Peas Operetta video of one of the songs on Dancing in the Kitchenhttp://t.co/VRf8voMK

Check child’s zinc levels because this can impact smell and taste and usually due to low zinc levels there is decreased appetite and smell.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! Practical and Surprising Tips from a Pediatric Feeding Specialist. Question: Did I see in your book that the Joy of food can start with just touching and playing with NEW foods?

<< Melanie Potock (photo left >> Lots of playing with food helps with the sense of smell.  But, start with a small amount of food  and have it down on a table; not to close to the child’s nose. Speaking of games, remember that YOU, the parents, are the fun. Kids want your attention and that is why great games like this works. Start with her most preferred texture and play in that. Try for example a pudding car wash, zoo animal baths in yogurt, make rice mountains for skiing plastic bears… Make necklaces of diced, pierced fresh, or dried fruits and veggies…

Question: What is the “Aha” event that makes parents realize their child’s eating/not eating habits need professional help?

<< Melanie Potock >> Most often parents or the family doctor will notice the child is falling off the growth curve. That’s when their doctor will step in and recommend they see a feeding therapist.  But any stall in development is a reason to refer a child for evaluation, for example not eating soft foods by one year. In the U.S., kids from birth to three get free evaluations through Part C laws. Through their family doctor they can reach a feeding therapist, or they call the therapist’s office privately. Since feeding is often a medical issue, insurance will usually pay.

One hour over already! Melanie Potock, thank you very much as well as to all who joined us! I am sure many parents value your advice on how to make mealtimes a happy time with their picky eater.

 Please give us your links on how to follow you.

<<Melanie Potock:  Follow me on Facebook and via my website, www.mymunchbug.com.  Or, email me at melanie@mymunchbug.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!>>

How to connect with Melanie Potock

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See Also

  • The Eating Game by Jean Nicol The Eating Game™ provides a very visual, structured, hands on tool that can be a fun way to plan healthy meals every day!

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