Making Mealtime Fun

Eating is supposed to be an enjoyable and social experience. For children with feeding disorders, the opposite may be true. In fact, children with sensory-based feeding disorders often find mealtimes to be stressful and anxiety-provoking. This might feel mom and child baking togetherdiscouraging to parents, who feel helpless as they worry about their child’s nutrition, growth and well-being. Not to mention that it’s wearing when mealtimes frequently result in meltdowns.

When working with children with feeding difficulties, an important goal is to foster positive experiences with food. Children with feeding disorders often have strong negative associations towards foods, whether from related pain, discomfort, sensory-aversions, or past negative experiences. To break these associations, mealtimes must be strategically planned to ensure positive experiences and a new relationship with food.

8 fun ways to revamp mealtime:

1. Make a placemat with your child. Help your child decorate a construction-paper placemat. Let them choose favorite movie characters, stickers, or pictures to fill their placemat. Laminate your child’s placemat to use at mealtime.

2. Let your child help with cooking. Give your child special jobs to help prepare meals, weather its helping mix foods, scooping foods onto plates, or adding ingredients.

3. Explore food during non-mealtimes. Plan fun activities to explore foods during non-mealtimes, when there’s no pressure to eat. You might make a craft out of foods (e.g. potato stamps), or finger paint with different sauces.

4. Make fun food shapes. Incorporate cookie-cutters into meal preparations. Have your child choose a fun shape, whether it be a racecar, an animal or a favorite shape. You might make heart-shaped pancakes, star-shaped sandwiches, or triangle potato slices.

5. Forget the manners. Let your child get messy while they explore their food. Touching and playing with food in a fun context will help young children reduce textural sensitivities. If you’re worried about messy eating occurring in public, then set parameters ahead of time. For example, you might make “silly rules” for Friday night dinners at home.

6. Make an edible craft. Plan a fun edible craft to create with your child. Instead of focusing on eating the craft, focus on making it. Enjoy planning the ingredients, grocery shopping, and putting it all together. For fun edible craft ideas, visit this previous blog.

7. Make a food face. Use a round plate, or draw a circle on a big piece of paper. Encourage you child to add different parts to the face. You might make spaghetti hair, grape eyes, and an apple smile. Experiencing food in a playful context will create a positive experience with food.

8. Make it social. Eating is a social experience, so be sure to participate with your child. Children learn by watching, so model positive interactions with food. Enjoy laughing and being silly while you experience new foods with your child.

If you suspect that your child has atypical feeding habits, seek help from a licensed therapist right away. These suggestions are not a replacement for feeding therapy, but are a supplement to recommendations by a trained therapist. A therapist trained in treating feeding disorders will help identify the underlying problem, determine whether your child is able to chew and swallow safely, and develop a specific plan to intervene.

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A Healthy Start to 2012: Featuring Expertise from a Pediatric Physical Therapist

With a new year just around the corner, many people are likely reflecting on the past year and thinking ahead to goals and resolutions for the next. One important topic to consider is physical health. What better time to begin a fresh fitness regime for the whole family than the start of a new year?boy eating hamburger

Childhood Weight Statistics:

The rate of obesity has tripled in adolescents in the United States over the last 20 years. 16-25% of children 6 to 19 years of age in the United States are overweight, and 7-19% are obese. Rates are even higher in economically disadvantaged ethnic minority groups. Furthermore, between 70-80% of obese adolescents will become obese adults. Many families have expressed concerns about their children’s weight and physical health and have asked about ways to address these issues. Lucky for them, North Shore Pediatric Therapy is a multidisciplinary team in which therapists from various fields collaborate to provide holistic services for children. To delve deeper into the topic of how to ensure and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I consulted Jesse Coffelt, PT, DPT, of our pediatric physical therapists.

How do you talk to your children about your concerns about their weight in a straightforward, yet sensitive manner?

“Be sensitive, but be an adult.” Jesse suggests a balance between talking to children about their weight and physical fitness in a gentle way, while acting as the head of the household through concrete decision making. One way Jesse suggests talking to children is to check in with them about their perspectives. For example, if your children used to play sports at school but no longer seem to enjoy them, you can say, “I notice you don’t run around as much with your friends as you used to. Why is that?” Jesse explains that most children will answer that they cannot keep up. This, then, is a great entry point to talk to your children about their fitness goals (ex. “Would you like to be able to play on the soccer team this spring?”) and how to get there (ex. “To play on the soccer team, we will have to make some changes so that you feel more confident and prepared. I know you can do it!”).

As a therapist specializing in mental health, I would also suggest anticipating your children’s reactions. All children are different and receive constructive feedback in various ways. If you know that your children will have a challenging time with specific language (ex. “I notice that you’ve gained a few pounds”), think of ways to help your children respond positively so that they will actively participate in a new fitness regime!

How do you know there is an obesity/weight issue?

“The best method to determine whether your children’s height, weight, and body fat are in a healthy range is to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI). Check out these 2 helpful websites ( (  BMI calculators and additional information. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defined overweight as between the 85th to 95th percentile of BMI for age and obese as at or above the 95th percentile of BMI for age.”

 How do you implement a family fitness regime?

  • “Avoid extremes.” Jesse suggests that one simple, yet effective way to implement a new health regime is to reassess the family diet. Cutting out sugary juices and soda in place for water, for example, is a simple way to decrease the number of unhealthy calories and increase the intake of water (health fact: did you know that half of your body weight is the number in ounces of water you should drink per day?). Jesse also warns against extremes (ex. No more desserts forever) and instead recommends healthy alternatives. Click here for a fun, child-friendly, holiday snacking guide!
  • “Have fun with it!” Creating a fitness regime can be fun! Involve the entire family and take family classes at the local gym (ie. Family Zumba is a great option for an energetic dance class open to all ages and levels), spruce up daily walks (ie. Make it a scavenger hunt), engage in friendly competitions (ie. Click here for indoor gross motor activities), and once in awhile, treat your children to creative outings involving physical activity! The president’s challenge is an excellent program and resource with tips and strategies for maintaining a physically active and healthy lifestyle for children and adults!
  • “Don’t get discouraged.” Jesse explains that it takes at least six weeks to increase muscle mass and that you may not recognize changes in body composition. Set goals and keep a log of everyone’s weight so you can really track your success!

Happy 2012! Please share with us your family’s health and fitness goals for the new year!

3 Tips For A Less Stressful Meal Time | Pediatric Therapy TV

Marriage and family counselor gives viewers 3 top tips to have a less stressful meal time with the family. For more meal time tips click here:

 In This Video You Will Learn:

  • How to transition your family to mealtime
  • Why rituals help with the transition to dinnertime
  • How to make meal times and dinner time fun for the family

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host,
Robyn Ackerman. Today I am standing with marriage and family
counselor Beth Chung. Beth, can you give us three tips to make
mealtime a little less stressful?

Beth: Sure. This is such a great question. Mealtimes can be especially
stressful because there are so many components involved. In
exploring this question, I’ll touch on three various components
of mealtime, the first being transitions.

Transitions can be really tough. Oftentimes before mealtime,
kids are watching TV, playing a game, doing homework, and
engaging in activities that they either like or really want to
get done before mealtime, so the switch to mealtime can be
challenging. Something that I would suggest to parents is to use
a warning system, to say, “All right, kids. In ten minutes it’s
time to turn off the TV, put your toys away, and walk over to
the dinner table.” And then another warning in five, and then
two. “All right, guys. Time to turn off the TV. Time to walk
over together.”

You can either give verbal warnings or you can use a timer. A
timer can be fun because your kids can set it up, and as soon as
the buzzer goes off, they know that it’s time to walk over
together. It’s especially helpful, too, if you can be physically
present to walk them over, walking to the television room,
turning it off, and walking with your children together.

And going along with that, another component is that of rituals.
It’s nice to have a ritual that can signal the transition from
playtime or TV time to dinner time. Something as simple as
walking together and doing a high-five or a hand motion that you
make up together, or singing a song together, to signal that
it’s dinner time. Those things can make it fun and can be a
physical reminder that the time has switched and it’s meal time.

The third component is that of conversations. Dinner time is a
really great time to talk with your children. Talk about how
their day was and see what they’re feeling. You can make this
fun. For example, every day someone can take a turn coming up
with a topic. On Mondays you might talk about robots. On
Tuesdays, you might talk about flowers. You can use other games.
I really like ‘Roses and Thorns’. Everyone gives one rose,
something positive from the day, and one thorn, something
negative from the day. Or the ‘I’m Thankful’ game, talking about
something you’re thankful for about the person on your left.
This can make meal times fun and also educational for children
to practice some of those social skills together.

Those are just some strategies that I would suggest to make meal
time a little more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Robyn: Wow. Thank you, Beth, and thank you to our viewers. And
remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at That’s

Bond With Your Child Through An Amelia Bedelia Book!

Do you need some time to bond with a child? “Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off” can help! Amelia not only is a great book to read and teach kids that being an Out of Sync Sensory Integration guru of a child can be oh so cool, but this book is a great way to spend quality time baking with your child as well!

Amelia Bedelia  Amelia Bedelia Ingredients

In the book, Amelia bakes a bed cake with pillows and a blanket! This is so exciting! Teachers can use this book to read and bake with the class!

So, now you have taught the child a lesson, bonded, and worked on fine motor skills with the stirring, math skills with the measuring, reading skills (click here tto learn about Orton Gillingham Reading)with the recipe and the book, tolerance for any child, and more! MMM..smells good!

daughter baking

My daughter and I baking the bed cake together!

Daughter with Cake

Finished product with my happy daughter!












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