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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Introducing food to a toddler with special needs

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Introducing food to a toddler with special needs

~ By Rose Anne Hughson

We've all heard that food before one is just for fun.....

but what if it's always a battle instead?

Dropped (or thrown) food, mess, refusal to eat – and everyone else’s child seems to be happily eating everything in sight! 

What if they still don’t eat at 1.. or 2… or 3… When an ASD diagnosis comes it either bowls you over or everything clicks into place. It explains so much about the WHY, but you still don’t have the information you need on HOW to get your child to eat anything nutritious!

When you have a toddler refusing to eat it’s time to take a deep breath and give control back to your child. Yes, we hate mess but exploring food is an important developmental phase for little ones. In younger children, it’s the result of learning to control and coordinate food. In older toddlers it’s for cause and effect. There is so much to explore when it comes to food (whether it’s the noise it makes or the textures… or making Mummy scream “noooooo!” as she tries to catch a bowl of spaghetti). Believe it or not, when toddlers play with their food it can help them to become better eaters!

Luckily there are things we can do to make meal times easier.

Give them their independence

Small people love being independent, taking that away can make them anxious. Let them feed themselves and they can explore their food and develop more confidence with food.

Take a step back

If you're anxious the chance of your child picking that up is very high - even if you think you're hiding it well. If your child sees your anxiety they're going to think meal time is stressful and won't be as receptive to new food.

Get appropriate utensils

You need toddler cutlery with a choke guard if that's something that worries you. Grabease has a great choke guard so you don't have to worry about how far in the fork goes. Get a shorter handle. If your child can't hold their fork it's going to fall and that's going to make a mess. Grabease utensils have a short, ergonomic handle that helps with motor skills and is easier to hold for babies, toddlers and those who need to strengthen their fine motor control. The handles actually strengthen the finger muscles that your child needs for drawing, writing and holding their toys, making life easier as they meet other developmental milestones.

Give small portions and top up if they need more.

Your child's tummy is tiny and maybe that huge pile of food is really intimidating and offputing straight away! Your child might need their food to not touch each other to start. Get in touch with Little Bites and I can help you find out the first step for your child to make dinner time a stress-free and fun family time.

Be consistent.

Giving a piece of toast because your child didn't touch their nutritious dinner, teaches them that there are other options without even trying. Follow your Little Bites strategies and have the same rules everyday. Children, especially those with an Autism diagnosis, thrive on routine, knowing your expectations and having boundaries. It's much easier for them to know what's happening next and what's going to happen if they try to push those boundaries.

About the author

Rose Anne Hughson founded Little Bites after seeing the results her strategies yielded while working to expand the diets of extremely selective eaters in special schools.

“I loved seeing them thrive and enjoy the tasting sessions, and thought to myself, ‘If these extremely selective eaters can learn to enjoy new food, other children with food struggles could too’”.

Rose Anne has been working with children with various food aversions, including severe anxiety around trying different foods, for several years, both in the UK and New Zealand. She loves being able to help children overcome their fear of new foods, tastes, textures and colours, Little Bite by Little Bite.

 

Check Little Bites out on Facebook or Instagram now! 

You can also click the image below to go straight to the website to read more.

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Fuss-Free Mealtimes with Toddlers – 7 Easy Tips

7 Easy Tips

for

fuss-Free
Mealtimes

written by Tracey Davidson

Getting toddlers to eat at meal time can be no mean feat! They tend to be stubborn and often refuse to try new foods, which can be rather frustrating for their parents. We’ve all been there, so here are 7 simple tips to try for fuss-free mealtimes. Hopefully making dining more fun and encourage them to eat more (or a wider variety) in the process.

#1

Involve them in Preparation/Cooking

meal prep Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

From as young as toddlers, there are age-appropriate tasks you can get kids to do to help prepare meals. Younger kids especially like helping and like to be given jobs. This can often lead them to being more likely to eat the food if they ‘made’ it. Simply helping with washing vegetables or placing salad into a bowl gives them that sense of achievement.

#2

make a food rainbow

food rainbow Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

Toddlers are very visual creatures. The more appealing the food presented to them looks, the more likely they will be to eat it! Mix fruit and veggies on a platter in the colour order/shape of a rainbow. This is also a fun activity to practice learning colours. Encourage them to try at least one thing from each colour.

#3

Use a Fun Plate or Utensils

Emondo kids and Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

Toddlers are wired to play. Have you ever noticed how throwing food on the floor suddenly becomes a game for them? Try making food more fun by using a novel plate (like these bamboo Aussie animal plates) or with their own cutlery that encourages independent eating, such as  grabease. This also gives them the autonomony they crave, while hopefully getting them to eat well!

#4

Cut it into Fun Shapes

lunch cutters and Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

Using food cutters can entice even the fussiest eaters to try something new. Who can resist a dinosaur sandwich? Look for cutters that are in shapes of things they like and use that to cut up sandwiches with healthy fillings. Even simply cutting fruit. They’re also great to use for party food!

#5

Make a Smoothie Instead

smoothies and Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

A lot of goodness can be packed (hidden) in a smoothie, so why not substitute a main meal for a smoothie from time to time? You can add veggies, protein powder or other powders (such as super greens powder) and include a couple of serves of fruit in a tasty drink. You could even get them to help you make it. Another tip for summer is to freeze smoothies in icy pole moulds and use the grabease utensils as handles for little hands. A great healthy, tasty treat!

#6

Pack it into a Bento Box

yumbox and Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

Another novel way of serving a meal is in a bento lunch box. Kids love them! They can pick and choose what to eat. You can actually fit a lot into them (more than you might think). They are super handy for meals on the go, but you could incorporate it into a backyard picnic or even serve dinner in it for something different. We love the Yumbox lunchboxes as they’re leak-proof and can be cleaned in the dishwasher! Don’t forget to include your grabease in the yumbox as they fit perfectly in its compartments.

#7

serve toddler-friendly snacks and food​

healthy snacks and Grabease Fuss-free mealtimes

Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to make toddler meal-time as fuss-free as possible! Making mini muffins or cookies that are packed with nutrients, but look like treats, can be one way to get them eating better. The Adventure Snacks range of baking mixes contain only wholesome ingredients, and some have hidden veggies in them, so you can make (with your toddler) healthy little snacks they will love to eat.

written by Adventures snacks fuss-free mealtimes

About the Author

Tracey is a mum and owner of Adventure Snacks – a business she started when her son was a toddler and she couldn’t find nutritious, convenient snacks on supermarket shelves. She created a range of organic baking mixes which are perfect for toddlers and school lunchboxes; with the added bonus of being able to freeze the snacks once made, so you always have healthy snacks on hand! You can find out more at the links below: