Does your little one have some big feelings about what’s on their plate? Maybe they don’t know what they want, but they know it is “NOT THAT”! Are there just a few foods they accept that are on constant repeat? Do you feel that you are trying everything and there has still been no give from your toddler’s palate of acceptance? Maybe you’re just tired of hearing “if they are hungry enough, they will eat” from your friends and family when you know there is a much deeper river of emotions that are causing resistance from certain foods.
If you’re wondering if and how feeding therapy might support your toddler, check out our list below of the top 10 benefits of feeding therapy for toddlers.
The Benefits of Feeding Therapy
- Health and growth
Children who, for a variety of different reasons, may struggle with feeding often also struggle with eating enough to maintain a healthy weight for their height and age. If other medical conditions have been ruled out for why your child may be struggling with gaining weight, feeding therapy would be a great place to work on increasing food intake, improving nutrition through eating more foods, and promoting growth!
- Increase variety of accepted foods
Does your child eat less than 20-30 total foods? Will they eat goldfish, chicken nuggets, and frozen waffles- but that’s it? When you go to a restaurant with your child, do you need to bring ziplock bags of accepted foods, just to make sure they eat something during dinner, because you know they won’t eat whatever’s on the children’s menu? Feeding therapy is incredibly effective at increasing a child’s repertoire of accepted foods. In turn and over time, this helps them to become more flexible with what’s served during mealtimes.
- More calm and joyful mealtimes
Mealtimes can be STRESSFUL. We see you. We’re here to tell you that they don’t have to be this way forever! One of the most lasting and noticeable benefits of feeding therapy is that mealtimes become less of a struggle. Mealtimes are supposed to be a calm and joyful part of your family’s routine. We know what you’re thinking, yes- it’s possible.
- Decrease stress associated with meal preparation
Do you feel like preparing meals for your little one is a balancing act between making sure that they eat enough and exposing them to new foods without triggering a complete meltdown?! Trying to juggle and balance these goals can feel like a full-time job! Or maybe you are feeling like a short-order chef–cooking up different options for grown-ups and little ones! If you’ve been walking this tightrope for a while with limited success or forward momentum, we want to come alongside you and support your family through feeding therapy.
- Learn how to engage and play with food
One of the cornerstones of feeding therapy is encouraging kiddos to play with their food! We’re all about getting elbow-deep in oatmeal, painting with chocolate, and using cookie-cutters with everything. Not only does this help children to become more comfortable with being exposed to new foods on their plate, but it also helps them to improve their sensory response to new and unfamiliar sensations. There’s so much research on the benefit of playing with food for little ones who struggle with picky eating and during feeding therapy. But playing with food doesn’t always come naturally to all of us (most of us have been told to not play with our foods), so we’ll provide you and your child with ideas for all sorts of food play!
- Establishing a foundational relationship with food and establishing healthy eating habits
The early childhood years are foundational for establishing a healthy lifelong relationship with food and with creating healthy eating habits. Sometimes, when children have stressful interactions with food time and time again, they begin to create a negative association with feeding, which can last years! By breaking down this association and creating new emotions associated with eating that are positive and fun, you’ll provide your little one with the tools and routine to have a healthy and positive relationship with food for their whole life. This is an invaluable benefit of feeding therapy!
- Increase connection, trust, and safety around eating
During feeding therapy and mealtimes at home, we want you to feel comfortable being an active participant! Over time, with positive mealtime interactions, fun with food play, and decreased pressure to eat, you’ll notice increased connection and trust as your little one feels safe to explore foods at their own pace. Envision a meal where everyone is joyfully connecting over food, instead of a daily battle of the wills–we’re committed to making that a reality for you!
Another amazing benefit of feeding therapy for toddlers is that it helps little ones develop self-regulation through co-regulation. Co-regulation is the way that little ones learn how to self-regulate their emotions, and it’s through connection and shared calm with their primary caregivers. We support you in discovering the daily routines and strategies that help your child feel calm when they come to the table and more able to soothe themselves if something feels or tastes a little….different. So much of feeding therapy is also providing parent support for strategies to manage your expectations and mindset around mealtimes. By sharing your calm and by bringing your peace to the table, your kiddo will learn to come to the table with joy and peace as well.
- Understanding how to manage behaviors that might come up during mealtime
Toddlers are right smack in the middle of a very typical developmental stage of wanting to do everything on their own. They want their independence, and they want it NOW. Feeding therapy is so beneficial for learning how to manage and understand toddler behaviors that may occur during mealtimes. Throwing spoons? Meltdowns with new foods on their plate? Screaming because you gave them the purple spoon instead of the red spoon? We deeply understand the struggle. And we have so many ideas to support.
- Ease of having other caregivers be successful with mealtimes
Do you feel like your child has to have all environmental factors just right for them to take a bite of their food? Are you the only one that your child will successfully participate in meals with? Do you feel like you lack support from other grown-ups when it comes to eating progress? We’re here to back you up, educate others on your family support team, and brainstorm strategies to create consistency of approach for your little one. AND as mealtimes become less stressful, we know it’s possible that you’ll be able to leave your little one with a family member or friend feeling assured they’re going to get their food needs met. A huge benefit of feeding therapy is that it helps take some pressure off of you to do it alone!
We hope these points provide some clarity surrounding why feeding therapy is so powerful for little toddlers! If you feel like your little one might benefit from feeding therapy, we invite you to book a FREE consultation with one of our amazing OT Feeding Specialists! We are happy to listen to your concerns and help you decide on some of your next steps towards joyful mealtimes!