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How to Help Picky Eaters Overcome Holiday Meals

Do you have a picky eater in your life? Are you dreading meal times this upcoming holiday season? For picky eaters, it is important to alleviate the pressure associated with eating, increase exposure to foods, and unlock all of the senses related to eating. If it seems like a lot to ask, try to remember the acronym “THANKS” for your special meals the next few months.

T – Teach

Pre-teach your picky eater about the new and exciting foods that they may encounter throughout the holidays. Make a menu photo album on your phone with pictures from Google. Remember the senses are important – as you look at the pictures, talk about what the foods may smell feel, and look like. Encourage your child to predict the texture and compare the foods to things they already like: “That looks crunchy like a cracker!”, or “Oooh that looks cheesy! I bet it is cheesy just like the string cheese you eat for lunch!”

H – Help

Children love doing adult “jobs”! Let your child help load your plate at meal time so they can see your plan to eat a variety of foods. Ask them for suggestions for what you should eat, and talk to them while you are eating it: “Wow, those mashed potatoes you put on my plate are so yummy. Thank you! I am glad you got those for me!” Again, keep in mind the senses – while helping out your kiddo might get a little of the food on their hands, or touch a foreign, never-tried-before food with a utensil. Great exposure!

A – Act

Act or model desirable behavior for your child. For example, if the barrier is their unwillingness to try new foods, select a food that you are not fond of, and model to your child that you are at least willing to try it. Invite them to try it with you so that you are participating in the experience together. To create a greater exposure to textures and smells of new foods, you can also model silly play with food, like making string bean moustaches, sweet potato food smiles, or carrot noses with leftovers.

N – Nose

The smell of foods can be a deterrent when it comes to picky eaters. So, don’t forget the nose! While cleaning up, put different foods in paper bags and make a game for all the kids to see who can guess the food by smell alone. Encourage conversation and description of what they are smelling.

K – Kind

Be kind and patient with your child. Children are less likely to try new foods when they are forced to eat something. Saying things like: “Just eat it,” or “You can’t get up until you eat it,” may further exacerbate your meal-time woes. Instead, provide small portions of less desirable foods, a variety of food options, and consider adjusting your food-trying goals for your picky eater. Rather than forcing a child to eat something, encourage them to at least touch it, smell it, poke it with a utensil, or at the very least, accept it being on their plate.

S – Snacks

Limit snacks prior to a family meal. Children who are hungry at meal time are more likely to try new foods on their plate, or eat a greater portion of a food that they may normally just have a bite or two of.

Remember, kids aren’t picky eaters just to be picky eaters. There are reasons behind their food choices, or lack of food choices. Try to remain calm, be patient, and give THANKS throughout the holidays!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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