mealtimes at childcare; eating with kids

Prior to working as a Speech Pathologist and Feeding Therapist, I spent ten years working as an Early Childhood Educator in child care and as a Preschool Teacher. In these settings, food was provided, cooked by an in-house cook and shared by children at mealtimes.

Over the years, I met many children who found mealtimes really challenging. Read more

Learning to live with mealtime mess and the benefits in developing Adventurous Eaters.


Think about when you go to a restaurant and choose something new from the menu. It comes to the table and you are curious, you want to touch it, smell, and inspect it before you feel confident enough to taste it. Children use these same techniques when they are introduced to a new food for the first time. Because children’s sensory systems are still developing, they need to experience this new feeling and texture ALL OVER THEIR BODY. Children learn about their environment and the world around them through their senses, touching, smelling, listening, and tasting.

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Children's balanced diet; variety of foods

As a Dietitian, I usually talk with parents and families a lot! It’s important to gather in depth detail about a child’s preferred and non-preferred foods, quantities of food eaten, growth patterns, fluid intake and stool patterns (and the list goes on) to conduct a thorough nutritional analysis and provide practical advice. Finding the gaps in a child’s diet to help them grow is like a puzzle and seeing how our advice can fit the pieces together for a family is extremely rewarding.

However, being able to provide practical advice to children and see their independence in the kitchen grow brings a whole other element to my work as a Dietitian. Cooking and being involved in the kitchen can be a fun and exciting way to learn about new foods. For many of the children I work with, they often haven’t been involved in meal preparation and cooking before. As a way to ease them into the kitchen, I start by cooking a familiar meal with them, so that they aren’t overwhelmed by too many new ingredients. From there, we adapt the recipes to introduce new foods based on the food groups that are currently missing from their diet.

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sensory processing

Does your child have difficulty sitting still at the table during mealtimes? Do they require the I-pad or TV to be on during meals? Do they gag at the sight and/or smell of food?

If so, they could have challenges with sensory processing and would benefit from an assessment from one of our Lively Eaters Occupational Therapists.

To understand how sensory processing impacts feeding, we first must understand what sensory processing is.

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parents coping, children becoming worried by COVID-19, strategies for families, helping parents

Mel has taken some time to reflect and write on the simple pleasures we can ensure, to assist in the ‘new normal’ of day-to-day…… Read more

Fussy eating, out of my brand, specific brands, food packaging, only 1 type of chicken nugget

During these challenging and stressful times, the last thing you want to be thinking about it is ‘what would happen if our specific brand of food is out of stock’, left wondering ‘what is my child going to eat if this happens’.

Children can quite often become fixated on specific brands and packaging of food leading to repetition of these foods and refusal when new brands and labels are introduced. As parents we can also become rigid in only buying the brands we know our children will eat. Read more

Many families I meet have found that the only way to tube feed their child so they don’t vomit is to feed them whilst they are asleep. Other families are put on a ‘prescription’ of 3 or 4 hourly tube feeds – even when their child is past the early months of life and therefore this ‘prescription’ is carried out whether the child is awake or asleep, in the car or wherever else they may be.

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I often receive referrals from families who have been told their tube fed child has ‘oral aversion’. As discussed in an earlier blog, oral aversion refers to babies and children who do not want to put anything (or very limited things) in their mouth or sometimes even near their face. Read more

What’s more important to you and your family – an enjoyable family mealtime or your child eating the balanced nutritional diet that is drummed into us?

It’s a really hard question…..of course we strive for both as they are both so important. However what often happens in children who have restricted food choices is a) they only eat the foods they will eat – how and when they will eat them – and therefore parents worry about their nutritional adequacy or b) parents push children to eat foods they currently don’t yet have on their ‘accepted’ list and in doing so create angst, upset and fights along the way.

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Children who struggle to try new foods, eat new textures or even put toys / food in their mouth are frequently diagnosed as having ‘oral aversion’. Basically this means they do not want to put anything (or very limited things) in their mouth or sometimes even near their face.

I have worked with babies who are tube fed and won’t mouth anything except a dummy; toddlers who never chewed on toys and never explored their worlds through their mouth; older children and teens who have sensory processing challenges (maybe as part of a larger challenge such as Autism or Down Syndrome) and have been extremely specific about the texture of their foods from an early age (often dry, crunchy, finger foods). These children also often HATE TOOTHBRUSHING!

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