Unbabbled Episode 6: Feeding & Eating

Nuggets & Fries: Discussing Picky Eating with Jennifer Woody

For parents of young children, eating is often one of their top struggles. Are they eating enough? Are they eating the right things? My child only eats nuggets, fries and crackers - help! In this episode, Jennifer Woody, Occupational Therapist at The Carruth Center, discusses picky eating and provides some much-needed clarification on what is "typical" for young children. We also discuss resources for families and strategies for parents to support their child’s eating and development at home.
Jennifer is a registered and licensed occupational therapist at The Carruth Center, a pediatric therapy clinic in Houston. She has worked extensively with children who have developmental delays, neuromuscular conditions and autism, and gained additional training and experience with children who have feeding and eating challenges. Her specialized training in the sensory processing problems of young children, Developmental Coordination Disorder, and handwriting difficulties, has made her a well-rounded and sought-after clinician for children with a variety of delays and difficulties.  

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Stephanie:                        00:05                   Hello and welcome to Unbabbled, a podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at the parish school in Houston helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them. Today we'll be speaking with Jennifer Woody a certified occupational therapist. Jennifer has advanced training in multiple feeding treatment approaches and experience working in a variety of settings including early intervention and neonatal intensive care unit and private practice. She currently works at The Carruth Center here in Houston, Texas. During our chat we discuss picky eating and provide much needed clarification on what is typical in young children. We also spend some time discussing resources for families and things parents can do at home to support their child's eating and feeding journey. Hello and welcome. Today we're talking with Jennifer Woody about picky eating and I must say that personally as a parent and a therapist, I am so excited to be talking to you today.

Jennifer:                           01:09                   Oh, well I'm certainly glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Stephanie:                        01:12                   We'll start off with just having you give a brief explanation about what the term picky eating means.

Jennifer:                           01:19                   Well, and that's a hard one because it means a lot to a lot of different people. And I think primarily we look at young children as picky eaters. I mean, most young children truthfully are occasionally you're going to have that friend or family member who goes on and on about their child who eats everything under the sun. Yeah. And that certainly is the case for, for some, I would say by and large, most young children, especially between the ages of two and five, are picky eaters. That's just who they are. And I think we oftentimes forget that it takes, um, a long time to learn how to eat. In fact, learning to eat is, is a 20 plus year process. Um, so yes, picky eating, it's, it depends on who you ask, but it's, it's that struggle sometimes to get your kid to eat a wide variety of foods. Perhaps those foods that your family serves on a regular basis. You'll see picky eaters who gets stuck on a handful of textures or, or, uh, their favorite foods and they kind of refuse to move on from that. Um, picky eaters. Um, usually we'll eat 20 or more foods and maybe in a different variety, but they kind of tend to stick to the same, same, uh, you know, four, five, six, seven, eight foods, maybe prepared in different ways. Sometimes these are, these are our kids that eat a lot of chicken, no gets, eat a lot of fries.

Jennifer:                           02:46                   They eat, uh, perhaps a handful of favorite fruits. They lot of crunchies perhaps chips, granola bars, things like that. Fish go fish is a big one, that's a big one, but are kids that are gaining weight and um, they, they seem to be moving along pretty well. Um, but they've definitely caused a lot of anxiety for parents almost, almost on a daily basis during these years.

Meredith:                         03:13                   And so what's the difference between picky eating and disordered eating?

Jennifer:                           03:16                   Well, again, it depends on who you ask. And I always ask parents, um, first of all to take a, take a survey of what their child is actually eating. Sometimes they're often surprised about how much their child is eating or, or the variety of foods. So if they're concerned, I asked him to go ahead and make a list. What does that list look like? And are they kind of touching on every food groups, perhaps some more than others.

Jennifer:                           03:40                   Um, we get concerned when a child, first of all, is not eating a relatively wide variety of foods. Perhaps they have two food groups are avoiding and they're eating most other food groups or perhaps they're, uh, avoiding meats all together. These, these are some concerns for us. Um, other, other red flags are kids that choke and cough during eating a lot of, a lot of behaviors around food and being on time with nobody can feed this child. If it's every meal is difficult, then that's a definitely a red flag. That's a concern. And then if you see that your child is slowly eating fewer and fewer foods, that's a concern. Um, so again, it's a, it can be a very fine line and I think sometimes it takes a kind of in depth analysis of the problem to decide is this, is this really a big problem or is this a small problem?

Jennifer:                           04:32                   I think oftentimes we just don't have all the, all the information right at hand to do that. Does that make sense?

Stephanie:                        04:38                   Yeah. Yeah. We know when kids are learning new foods, sometimes there is a little bit of gagging as they gain experience with chewing. However, there also can be choking. Can you explain a little bit about the difference between gagging and choking and when parents should be concerned?

Jennifer:                           04:55                   Yeah, that's a great question. Choking, gagging, coughing, nasal reflux. Um, a lot of those, um, events during feeding it can be very difficult for kids and cause a lot of anxiety for parents in general. Gagging occurs for, it can occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes it can occur just when a child is looking at a food or smelling of food. Sometimes it occurs when food is moved back towards the back of the throat that they don't quite have control over and it, and it hits a spot that that elicits that gag reflex. It's protective. It's, it's what we're supposed to do when we're not ready for something that can be normal. What we don't want to see is a lot of coughing with, with feeding a lot of, um, uh, of eye watering with eating. Um, when these things are recurrent and regular, that's, that's a time to be concerned. Again, gagging, occasional gagging is okay. You occasionally cough on a piece of food that is okay, that gives us a signal that, that that food, it may not be appropriate for that child yet. And if you're seeing that frequently, then that's definitely a concern. And when they start choking, it's, it's a little more severe. Absolutely. It's, it's a, it's a, it is definitely more severe. I mean, it can be a life threatening event in some ways. You know, are they, are they getting it in their lungs? Um, yeah, it's definitely can be a concern.

Stephanie:                        06:25                   Okay. You mentioned a little bit about disordered eating. Are there any other flags that might need a more in depth therapy approach as opposed to just introducing a variety of foods for kids?

Jennifer:                           06:38                   Sure. Um, I think when we see kids that avoid messy hands and messy faces and they get very distressed by, um, textures, perhaps they even turn their head away when looking at something. I think it's looking at a food. I think it's really important to understand that eating is such a very sensory rich experience. You think about it. I mean, we use, we use all our sensation, all our senses, all our sensory pathways to eat. It's about vision. It's about hearing. I mean, some kids are really turned off by the sound of crunching when they eat. It's about, um, again, seeing all the different textures and can I, can I process what I'm seeing?

Jennifer:                           07:22                   And it does it bother me to look at foods that are softer, wet, or, um, uh, uh, texture perhaps. And I haven't been exposed to a lot. Can I, can I touch it on my hands and can I experience it on my face without being bothered by that? Those are some issues. Um, and you know, it's sometimes it's hard to pull apart or we'd apart what the area of difficulty is because they often feed into each other. So you'll have a kid that has maybe perhaps a purely sensory problem, difficulty in the, in the beginning, but because they're not experiencing that food, then it turns into an oral motor problem or vice versa. Perhaps they have an oral motor problem and they put a food in their mouth and they don't have the ability to, to, to move that food around in their mouth. Well then then that that leads to, I don't want to put into my mouth anymore and so I don't have the experience with it.

Jennifer:                           08:13                   So it's kind of, it's the skills that build on to each other and work in harmony to, to progress a child with feeding and eating.

Stephanie:                        08:20                   Out of my own personal experience. That's what happened with my daughter. She was a, a premium, had some oral motor issues and because she was so delayed in getting different textures and food in her mouth, it took a while for us to work on that side of it too.

Jennifer:                           08:36                   Right. And it takes time. And uh, I think we often look at one child and say, well, my child was able to consume that food at nine months or 10 months. And then all of a sudden you have another child who is not able to do that. And sometimes it's just an individual difference and they need a little more time. And so it's about stepping back and saying, okay, what is, what, what's working here and what is not working here and how, how are we going to tackle this problem?

Meredith:                         09:01                   Yeah. Stephanie, you mentioned your daughter was premature and prematurity, automatically puts her at risk for speech, language and feeding delays and feeding disorders. What are some other children that might fall into that group that they're higher risk, uh, for feeding and eating disorders and so that those parents can be sure to keep an eye on it.

Jennifer:                           09:19                   So, uh, two populations are often our children with autism. In fact, that's, that can be one of the restricted, uh, patterns of behavior that we see is extreme pickiness with, with, and with food and very ritualistic behaviors around food that can be definitely a red flag, a red flag. And we know that these kids also experienced issues with their stomachs and their tummies and digestive systems and, and those things work together with our ability and desire to eat, um, layer onto that, the sensory differences that children with ASD have.

Jennifer:                           09:57                   So, so definitely that's a population that frequently has problems, um, with developing a wider range of food, foods to eat. Um, and then, um, I would say another population is our children with the ADHD. Um, and it oftentimes, it's just stems from I can't get my kid to sit down for long enough to, to consume a meal. And how do I do that? How do I do that? I experienced that at home. Yeah. Well, it's not uncommon. It is absolutely not uncommon in our little guys are movers. Anyway. So, um, so those are, those are two of the Kiddos that we often see in our practice. What about children who have maybe some, uh, motor development delays say like practice you would be on that oral motor side or dyspraxia globally? Yeah, absolutely. Again, it's, you think about fine motor and we often, when we talk about fine motor, we often think about just our hands, right?

Jennifer:                           10:54                   We'll find motor also includes your mouth and includes your tongue and those muscles that enable your mouth and tongue to move and your jaw to work well. And those are, those are absolutely skills that can be delayed in children that have speech and language difficulties as well as apraxia and, and other motoric difficulties.

Meredith:                         11:14                   So if we have a parent listening and, and realizing my child is a picky eater, what can we do at home? How can we help our kids eat more variety of foods? Or what are some strategies we can do?

Jennifer:                           11:25                   That's a good question. Well, I think first of all, I, you know, I start with the parent. It's, it's, it's really getting control of your own anxiety and fear around feeding. Um, and I, and I think once a parent and understands that this is a process, it's going to take time. That if we can kind of loosen the reins a little bit. And what that means is that you are going to be providing, um, the food. You're going to be providing the place where they, you're going to provide some boundaries around what you serve and then you're going to let your child go. And that's really hard, so hard, so hard because we've learned that a lot of pushing, a lot of coercion and, and a lot of focus around getting the food in their mouth actually can backfire. So we want to be, that's a really fine line. And I think, I think it's important to, to balance out, um, our need to feed our kids, but then also the need to trust that they have the ability to make these small changes and to move forward. And I can promise you it's never fast enough and never feels fast enough and you're going to always get to that point of feeling, oh gosh, I just didn't feel like my child ain't enough today.

Jennifer:                           12:36                   But that's okay because you know that they're going to eat that next morning. And that because you're providing those three, three meals a day plus plus snacks that are healthy and nutritious, you are always providing foods that, um, at least one of the foods that you know your child will eat. And then on top of that, you are doing your best to eat alongside your child so that they can see you eating foods so that they can see you enjoying your meal. Because that's how kids learn. They learn by watching us. We are the best teachers for kids. Um, I think right now in our current culture, we see a lot of kids eating by themselves. Yeah. These new great kitchens with these huge islands are fabulous, but they don't oftentimes provide enough support for our little guys. Um, so you'll have feet dangling and backs that aren't well supported and they may not want to sit there for very long to be able to consume a meal. So whenever you get the chance, whenever you can eat with your child, that's really one of the best strategies I can offer.

Meredith:                         13:39                   Yeah. I know we've talked in the past about postural support when children are eating and talking about feet dangling. That as something that I went home and changed at my home pretty quickly. Um, after learning that my children might be uncomfortable in the chairs that were eating in, which might be why they're not sitting for dinner. I might have noticed my children always ate better when I let them sit at their little tiny table, their toddler table. Um, and that all just kind of clicked when we were speaking last time when I was speaking with you last time. And it has made differences in my children's eating for sure.

Jennifer:                           14:10                   Well, and that's actually one of the myths of, of eating and the myth is that that, you know, eating is our, is our body's priority. Well it's not, there's two priorities that come before that. One is breathing. Yeah. And then two is staying upright, not falling over on my head. So if you have those two things in place, then you're definitely, uh, you're, you're, you're moving in the right direction. So, just like you said, if you could have a small chair and they in the, in the kitchen or wherever you, you may you eat or small child's table and chair, then that, that might be a great opportunity for, for your Kiddo. I think about that high chair. Think about the support that they have when they're in a booster seat or, or um, anything like that. I mean it's going to be really important that they always have something that their feet are sturdy, sturdily planted on and then some kids will need some more back support. And we want that table really to be between kind of breasts and naval height.

Jennifer:                           15:10                   So it's not, they're not, you're reaching up to eat or leaning too far down to eat. So that gives a really kind of a comfortable height in which to eat. Yeah.

Stephanie:                        15:18                   And I love what you said about eating with the kids because it is really difficult as parents to balance. Some kids eat really early and then the adults don't eat till later and the kids are eating by themselves and if the kids are eating by themselves and the parents are trying to like force feed them, it does turn into like an uncomfortable power situation instead of what is a little more natural of a family bonding, relaxed thing. And you know, once I stepped back and thought about it, I was like I wouldn't want to eat in that situation either if somebody was just staring at me being like, eat that, eat that. So it is a small shift that makes a huge difference.

Jennifer:                           15:59                   Oh, and you nailed it. It is a small shift and, and sometimes it really is about just coming to the dinner table and acknowledging, first of all, acknowledging that, oh wow, I'm feeling a little worried about whether or not my child would eat. But you know what? I'm going to put a smile on my face. We're going to focus on the food. We are not focusing on the child eating the food. So what that means, we're going to talk about the colors and the textures. If you want to call Broccoli little trees, if you want to make it, just make it fun, make it fun. That's how we learn is through fun. When we're anxious, when we're sad, when we're crying and we're upset, the first thing that goes is our appetite. You know, so, so think about that when, when meal times come around, you really want it to be fun and it's not going to go 100% all the time.

Jennifer:                           16:48                   We know that. And so if you just come in with that expectation that there is some meals are going to be better than others, um, jot down your feelings, jot down what went well, what didn't work. Um, that's, that's a good way to kind of first of all, track track your child's progress, but then keep check of how you're feeling during this process. Because again, as a parent, and I've been through it myself, I remember looking at my four year old child who ate two bites of sandwich for lunch and you know, a handful of cheerios for breakfast and a strawberry and then picked it as dinner thinking, how is he going to survive? How is it going to be, you know, coming to coming to the end of the day thinking, Oh wow, I just feel awful, but he's not in distress. He's fine because he's listening to his body and for whatever reason his body was saying, my body's not eating a lot today, but the next morning, by and large, he'd get up and have a big breakfast.

Jennifer:                           17:47                   So that's, that's the thing we need to consider too. We have these guidelines on, on, uh, on how much our kids are supposed to eat every day. It's a guideline. Um, it goes up and down and it certainly goes up and down, uh, over the course of a week where you have higher food days and other days where there's, where they're not consuming a whole lot. But if you just really take that into consideration and consider what they're eating over course of three days, then I think you're gonna, you're gonna have a better feeling about what's happening. That's good to hear. We have eating days and non eating days in my house, so it's good to hear that's typical to them. That's very typical. That's very typical, especially between that two and five year old age range.

Stephanie:                        18:27                   So I'm thinking if parents are noticing that their child might be having some picky eating or for some food restrictions, do you have any advice on ways to introduce new foods or to keep reintroducing foods that they have in the past?

Jennifer:                           18:44                   Right. Well, I think first of all, it's, it's always important to keep reintroducing those foods. Keep trying. I mean, and it doesn't mean that you're pestering your child to take a bite all ways, but it's always that, that the new food is going to be on that plate. Um, and it's going to be on that plate again and again and again and again. And it may be serving that food 20 times. It may be serving that food 15, 25, 30 40, 50 times before that child actually decides to take a bite. But what they're doing is they're watching you eat broccoli, where we're talking about it, we're feeling it. Maybe we can bring it to our lips and have a little taste and put it down. Those, those are opportunities to learn. And I think too often parents give up. They say, Oh, well he won't eat that.

Jennifer:                           19:30                   And so they don't, they never give it to them again. Oh, he doesn't like that once or twice or once or twice. We have to keep doing it. We have to do it again and again and again. That's how they learn. Um, and I think it's also very important not to label your child is a picky eater. And I've, I've done this, let me tell you, and I'm not proud of it. If you say to your friend who's, who's, uh, serving your child a dish of an unknown food, and you say, well, he won't eat that, then I promise you he won't eat that. If you, if you, if you can just do your best to say, well, we're still learning about that food. Um, or, or call him an adventurous eater, they might, they might, they just might live up to those, to those words. So be careful about saying picky eater because they will also likely, um, live up to those words. If you, if you continually, they continually hear that.

Stephanie:                        20:25                   And then they can use it as an excuse. Other Times there, I don't need to try that. I'm a picky eater. I'm a picky eater. I can, we've heard that I can get this when I get home.

Jennifer:                           20:34                   Right, right. I think it's really important to think about, uh, about the scheduling of meals. A lot of times our kids are grazers and so they never get fully hungry. So if you're eating a little packet of gold fish here or there and you're drinking some juice packets and continually throughout the day, a child may not develop real strong hunger cues. So, so kind of be mindful of that. And in general, kids should be able to go, you know, three, two and a half, three hours without eating. So if you have a child that's not eating at one meal, it is okay. You know, let them know, okay, well we're going to eat again at such and such time. Pack it away and be done with it after 15, 20 minutes. And then uh, you know, they'll have that opportunity again to eat and hopefully we'll have better. But our hunger cues at that point.

Stephanie:                        21:26                   Yeah, that's something I've heard you speak on before. And I tried that with my own daughter. She just was not interested in dinner and then an hour later she came back and ate the whole meal and she just wasn't hungry then or was too excited about telling us about her day, whatever the reason was, she just eating was not her priority at that time.

Jennifer:                           21:47                   Right, I think we do have to have some flexibility and, and ideally we do want families to, like I said, to eat together, but we how, how often have you encourage your child to eat and then they say they're not hungry. And then an hour and a half later they throw up in their sick. Oh yes. And then you go, ah, they were trying to tell me they didn't, they weren't hungry because they weren't feeling well. So, so the idea is to help children understand their own body's cues, what they need, what that feels like to be hungry, what it feels like to be full. These are signs that are not always easily discernible to our kiddos. And so helping them, talking about them with it yourself, reviewing that, I'm hungry. So let me think, what am I gonna eat today? And then talk about being full. I have more food on my plate, but I think I'm done now. I've, my tummy feels full. I feel good to talk about what that feels like.

Stephanie:                        22:41                   And that's hard to trust. It's hard to trust your kid when you see more food on their plate. Like are they really full? Are they just trying to get out of eating something? And as a parent it's really hard to trust that they're learning that and regulating their own thing. Especially, we very much live in a clean your plate society.

Jennifer:                           23:01                   Oh, absolutely. And, and I think again, just going back and recognizing that in yourself, recognizing, wow, this is really hard for me in and doing your best to pull back. And even it may be, it's just for that day to say, I am, I'm, I'm not gonna say anything to my kid about taking one more bite. I'm just gonna see what happens. Perhaps write those thoughts down, write down what they actually ate, and then again, track that over three or four days and see, see how it looks. I think you might be surprised in a lot of cases, the picky eating in children is, is absolutely the norm these days. And I think again, part of it is we are not sitting down as frequently with Kiddos to eat. We live in a fast food society. We're bringing in food, others are cooking for us, uh, at restaurants and such. And then we don't have the opportunities to smell and engage with food in the ways that we used to in the past. And I believe that that is definitely impacting, uh, this generation of kids or creating more picky eaters.

Stephanie:                        24:03                   Are there any other tips for parents of ways to, um, casually or in a playful way, increase their kids' comfort around food that might then get them to be a little bit less picky of eating?

Jennifer:                           24:17                   Well, that's a great question and again, it depends on your child's needs and every child is different. That's, I think it's important to understand that, um, what works for one child is not necessarily gonna work for another child, but oftentimes we see kiddos that have trouble with textures. So bringing in foods during non eating times and sometimes we'll call it being a food scientist or we'll call it, um, we're just, we're, we're just exploring this food today and you know, doing things like slicing food, of course with, with help from mom or dad, um, using that food to paint with, we could, we could, you know, create crazy, crazy mixtures with food, um, using different utensils to stir food. Of course, during cooking. That's, that's huge. They're getting a great sensory experience by doing just that.

Meredith:                         25:13                   What about resources for families? We've talked a little bit about knowing the guidelines of what your children should be eating. Do you have any resources that would be beneficial for families?

Jennifer:                           25:22                   I do. I, there's a couple of websites that I follow. One is called mymunchbug.com and this is by a fabulous, very well experienced SLP. Her name is Melanie Potok. I hope I'm pronouncing that right. She's got a ton of videos, she's got some great books and she really specializes in kids that are picky eaters. There's another Gal, her name is Alicia Grogan. Her website is called yourkidstable.com and she really focuses a lot on those kids with sensory issues. Um, setting up that meal time routine. How do we, how do we bridge that gap between, you know, these vigorous eaters and those that are a little more tentative with their eating style. She's fantastic. Another one I like is spd.org and so they focus primarily on the SOS approach to feeding, which is the sequential oral sensory approach to feeding. And it's a, it's a, it's a good one. When you're looking at potential avenues for feeding therapy, it's really important to understand that there's a wide, wide variety of uh, uh, thoughts on how feeding and eating occur. And so some with a very strong behavioral component, others that are very child-led. And so I think this is a really good one because it kind of leans more towards child-led, but it's also set some boundaries which, which we all need. Right. Um, so that's, that's a good one. And then the other one, the last one is called, uh, EllenSatterinstitute.org. And she's a Dietitian and she's fabulous, but she's got, she's got a lot of Nice resources for parents as well.

Stephanie:                        27:03                   That's great. In that, talking about the resources, you mentioned a number of different therapists and therapy styles. If for any parents out there, if they're going to try and seek some therapy services for their children, they're thinking this might be beyond just typical picky eating, what would their first steps be into reaching out for therapy and then what would they look for in a really great therapy program?

Jennifer:                           27:28                   Feeding issues, real difficulties can be very complex. And sometimes we uncover things that we weren't expecting. So I'm, I'm a firm believer that children with complex issues need a team approach and that means you're going to have an OT, you're going to have a speech person, you may have a, um, a family therapist, um, and you may have an MD on a team and these people are working together with our own specific lenses to kind of a peel away or understand the eating issues for this child. Um, and then collectively they work together to, to, to come up with a plan along with the parents. Um, so you can find these types of professionals in hospital settings. Um, clinics may have an OT or an SLP that worked together. They may have another, a counselor, a therapist also that works with the, with the family too to help with feeding issues.

Jennifer:                           28:28                   Early Childhood Intervention is a good one for those little guys that are three and under. Um, and then, you know, uh, again, private clinics can, can be helpful, but I think it's really important to understand what does that clinic or clinicians frame of reference, what do they believe regarding feeding issues and you know, what is their specific training because we know that feeding therapy is definitely a specialization within a specialization. Yeah. Um, and it, it takes a, it's a lot of critical thinking involved. And the last thing you want is somebody who's, who's not a good fit for your Kiddo. Yeah.

Stephanie:                        29:09                   So would the first step be to seek out like a hospital service or a therapy center specifically, or to go to the pediatrician for people in our area?

Jennifer:                           29:17                   I definitely start with my pediatrician. Okay. I think sometimes it's a, you may get, you may get a pediatrician who wants to downplay your concerns. So be be, be very, you know, come in with your list, coming in with your list of concerns, write it down, let him know or her know that you're very concerned and here are the reasons why. Um, and then again, depending on what you're seeing, I mean, it could, you could start with just one discipline. However, again, for, for severe kids with, with issues, when you're in your gut that you feel like something's really, really wrong, then I don't think it's a bad idea to start with, um, a comprehensive evaluation.

Meredith:                         29:55                   And who would do that comprehensive evaluation?

Jennifer:                           29:59                   Typically hospital.

Stephanie:                        30:00                   Okay. That's good to know. We've been talking a lot about the younger kids. However, I know that I've worked with kids up through elementary age that are still dealing with some picky eating. Do you have any advice for parents of maybe older kids?

Jennifer:                           30:16                   Well, I think, I think what's hard is oftentimes we look at a child who's nine, 10 years old and just because they're nine or 10 doesn't mean they're eating abilities are at a nine or a 10 year old level. Yeah. And that's hard. That's really hard when we talk about, so I was going back to the idea that it's a, it's a learning process and that experience builds ability and ability is based on experience. Right? Yeah. It's, it's hard. Um, but yeah, so with older kids it's, it's really about understanding where they are in that trajectory, where, where are their strengths, where are their difficulties, and then you've got to really get them on board too, to be honest with you. And it's hard because a lot of times you'll have kids, well I just don't, I just don't eat that period. I just don't eat that period. So it's small baby steps. It's really trying to get them on board. It's having somebody evaluate their motor, their oral motor abilities, their swallowing, their sin, they're understanding their sensory profile. But if you can somehow get them pulled in through some curiosity or through learning, then that's, I think that's how it's going to occur. And I've had kids where all we're doing is perhaps, you know, making a salad for a kid who's never made a salad. Now they may not always eat it, but oftentimes they enjoy the process of, of making a salad or a process of making a smoothie or a process of making some simple meals. So if you can engage them in that way, that's often very helpful. Watching cooking shows can be helpful.

Stephanie:                        31:58                   Um, especially now that on food network, they have all of these like top chef junior and baking champion junior, and it's becoming more commonplace to, to, for kids to get excited about being in the kitchen.

Jennifer:                           32:11                   Right, right. Go with your child and, and find a, a cookbook at the, at the bookstore or, or get online and start talking about it. I mean, this is, these are the first steps and I think if we start with, oh, you're going to eat it, you're going to, that's going to fail. But if you start with, well, let's explore, or let's look or let's prepare for us to prepare then, then, then you're going to be setting your, your yourself up for success and your child up for success. But it's a slow, slow process. I always laugh because one of my kids was a picky, picky eater. He was that kid that would cry at dinner time if the food was touching. He really had it hard time with different textures, would not eat vegetables. I mean, he was like your meat and potatoes kind of guy. Uh, he graduated from A&M with a degree in agricultural economics and his favorite thing to do is to grow and eat vegetables. So if you keep thinking big picture, this is a long process. This is learning. You know, you as an eater at 45 is not the same as as as you were at two, um, it's, it's a learning process.

Stephanie:                        33:19                   I didn't eat tomatoes until I got to college and my parents will have, because part of my family history is tomato farming. So we had tomatoes around all the time and I would not eat one until college. And I was like, oh, turns out I do like tomatoes.

Jennifer:                           33:35                   Well get this. So I never ate asparagus or a Brussels sprouts. Well I didn't eat Brussels sprouts and asparagus because my dad didn't like them so we never got served them. That's what I noticed that like, oh, I like these.

Meredith:                         33:48                   Yeah. We don't serve things in our house that we don't like. And sometimes you don't know your kids might like them. That's right.

Stephanie:                        33:53                   We had to start serving peas because my husband and I do not like peas. It's top five favorite foods for my kids. That is great. That's great.

Jennifer:                           34:02                   So you're doing it, you're doing a fabulous job.

Stephanie:                        34:03                   Choke a few down to try and model and I smile and I do not like peas, but I stopped myself from saying these are gross.

Jennifer:                           34:12                   That's right. Absolutely. You're, you're, you've got it. You've got it.

Stephanie:                        34:16                   Well, thank you so much. We've really enjoyed this. Is there anything else that you want to, um, kind of touch on that we haven't asked about yet?

Jennifer:                           34:25                   Um, I think, I think that just feeding is messy. It is okay to get messy. Um, it's a fine motor skill again with the mouth, with using your hands with spoons and forks and knives when they're ready. Right. It's meant to be messy. It is okay. Let your child get messy, let your child play, think about manners. But manners really come after skill. Once they've gained a skill, then we can really focus on manners. Um, and again, just think about it. It's a learning process just like everything else is.

Meredith:                         35:04                   Yeah. Okay. We've been asking all of our guests at the end, if you had one piece of advice you could share with families or parents, um, it can be related to picky eating or eating or fine motor or it can be a more lighthearted. Any, any kind of advice? What would you share?

Jennifer:                           35:20                   That's a great question. I think, I think I'm kind of a big picture person and I think the older I get, the more I realize that it really is about the big picture. And I think sometimes we get too focused on the small details that don't matter in life. And sometimes the details feel important at the time. And it might be the detail is my child's not coloring in the lines yet, or the detail might be, um, my child is not riding a bike yet at age five. Think about long term. Think about the big picture. And the big picture is, is my child happy? Is my child making progress? Are we a happy family? Do we support one another? To me, those are the, those are the big ones, you know. And again, if it's, if your child never eats Broccoli, it's not going to be the end of the world. Perhaps their eating some spinach or perhaps are eating something else. That's not going to be the end of the world. Just just think about, think about the big picture for your child and make that, make that, make that a priority.

Stephanie:                        36:22                   I like that. I think that's really great advice. Great. Especially since you can get kind of stuck in the weeds of the day to day. Absolutely. We appreciate you so much. Thank you for coming in and spending time. They learned a lot. Thanks.

Meredith:                         36:35                   Bye. Bye. Thank you for listening to the Unbabbled podcast. For more information on today's episode, including links to resources mentioned, please see our episode description. For more information on the parish school, visit www.parishschool.org. If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the Unbabbled podcast on your app of choice and if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review. A special thank you to Stig Daniels, Amy Tanner and Amanda Arnold for all their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.