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Exploring Foods with All Five Senses

If you have a picky eater on your hands, it can be frustrating to try to get them to eat something new. One of the best things you can do for a child is offer them a lot of exposure to various food types! This means having exposure without necessarily having the expectation of actually eating the foods we expose, at least right away. However, the more exposure, the more the child can build a relationship with foods.

Along with continuing to offer foods that are non-preferred for a child, try some new ways to expose them to food items based on the five senses!

1. Sight:

Although we may not realize it, sight can play a major roll on how foods are accepted. A child sees a certain type of packaging and decides he does not want it, just based on how it looks.

  • Try putting various food items in new containers as a way to spark interest and change up the initial “look” of a food item. (e.g., a new bowl, a cup, a small plastic baggy)
  • Cut or break up a food item: a waffle by itself may look daunting, but if it is cut up into smaller bite sized pieces, it may look more tempting and child friendly. Or use a cookie cutter to cut the waffle into a pleasing shape.
  • Pick colorful non-preferred food items to jazz up a plate, whether it is for play time, like making gold fish swim, or on a dinner plate to make a “pepper slice” smile.
  • Talk about the shapes and colors you see with your child as you eat/play

2. Hearing:

You can draw attention to various sounds you hear while preparing to eat, eating and while experimenting with different foods. 

  • During food prep, have your child listen to you cutting and opening items. Pretend you are a kitchen Rockstar and use a pot/pan drum. Encourage a fun way for your child to interact while making the meal through sound!
  • While playing with food or with eating, you can draw attention to the various sounds you hear. A cracker is loud and crunchy sounding, while the pudding you pat with your spoon sounds sticky. 
  • You can model different ways food sounds when you eat in front of/with the child, like the crunch of a carrot, or a quiet bite of a marshmallow.

3. Touch:

Attempt to have your child touch and play with food items with their hands. This can get messy, but can also be a fun and beneficial way to expose your child to various foods/textures! 

  • During food prep or during play with food, talk about what the food item feels like. Ask your child to touch and look at the food item as you describe what you feel and see; also, you can try having your picky eater help prepare the meal by adding ingredients and stirring.
  • If the child will not touch the food directly, try placing the food item (graham cracker, pudding, etc.) into a plastic bag. This will allow them the opportunity to “touch”,  poke and play around with the item without having to actually touch the item’s at first.
  • During play, pick a toy/toys your child prefers (e.g., race cars, Legos) and put the toys in with some preferred and non-preferred food items to encourage tactile play and touch with some new foods and textures. You could make a racetrack out of chocolate pudding with some preferred items on the track like pretzels or fruit loops.

4. Smell:

The sense of smell can be a strong one that makes a connection to how food is received by a little one – so be careful! Strong smells (e.g., chicken, hot peppers, vinegar) may be off putting. There are a multitude of opportunities to have children smell things during meal prep and food play.  Encourage your child to smell but do not force the issue.

  • Talk about the things that you smell and offer for the child a chance to smell. Ask what he/she thinks of the smell. If the child is hesitant, during meal time and play, model smelling the different things and just talk about how it smells, without asking the child to do the same. 
  • Make a game of it: Put different food items in a closed bag or cup so the child can’t see it and then ask if he/she can guess what it is (you can give them choices! “Beans or lemon?”).

5. Taste:

If you have a picky eater, it may be hard to get them to taste new things. You can and should model eating things!

  • Try pretending the food is something else while modeling tasting it yourself! Maybe the strawberry is a snow ball or the pretzel is a plane.
  • Have the child touch the food and encourage them to lick their fingers after preferred foods and foods they don’t like as much
  • Encourage, but don’t force, the child to kiss and/or lick the food item

Overall, model and encourage the child. It is easiest if it is a playful and social engagement with the food included. Food and feeding is a very social activity and can be encouraged in social and fun ways with those they share mealtimes with!

-Teal Simmons, Speech Therapist

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Patient Reviews

LLA Therapy

Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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