Let's chat about all the yummy foods and treats that we have during the summer time. Why???
Because we are going to look at the choices out there and see how they:
1. Will stimulate your child's oral area to produce clearer sounds.
2. Will stimulate your child's language development.
3. Will maybe even help your child try some new tastes and eat a wider variety of foods.
Before I go on: NEVER GIVE YOUR CHILD ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD WORRY THAT THEY WOULD CHOKE ON. You know your child best and I am speaking to parents from infants to young children, so please use your best judgement before giving your child any of these suggestions.
So, it's summer, a time full of yummy foods and drinks. When you think of summertime and food what do you think of? Grilled food (chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs), salads, watermelon, popsicles, ice cream cones, corn on the cob, tomatoes, lots of garden veggies (I lived in the Midwest most of my life so I am basing my choices on our summers). I now live in Florida and so many of these choices are available year round...so think of what are your special foods during the summer time and add them to my list.
-Meat cooked on the grill. OK, I know that meat can be hard for children, especially if you have some low tone in your mouth. But what I want you to think of is the different tastes that grilled meat can give you. It's a more intense flavor from the grilling plus often times we add a marinade that intensifies the flavors. Plus, ribs can be cooked until they almost melt in your mouth so might work for the child that chewing is difficult. Hot dogs are yummy and can be diced up finely if need be. Add different toppings, pickle relish, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salsa, horseradish!! Yes, I want you to make a party in your child's mouth. Often times parents think that young children cannot tolerate more intense flavors but you will be surprised once you play around with this. Some children crave those intense flavors and by letting them have them they will eat more quantity and different options.
-Encourage your child to "dip" their food into different flavors. This is a tricky way to get them to eat anything they don't like. By "dipping" it into a flavor they like they may eat more variety. They also may just lick off the dip, but that's OK too. So, think of all the different flavored salad dressings out there to use as a dip......now think of the actual dips (onion, ranch, salsa, guacamole, caramel).....now how about condiments that you can dip in (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise) and of course I'm now going to push you out of your comfort level and think about other options like........yogurt, chocolate sauce, lemon juice, pickle juice, lemon curd, Nutella, peanut butter, jelly, pixie stick powder), yes, pretty much anything that will stick on food can be used as a dip.
OK, now take a breath and go with me on one more thought....(no I am not crazy, this really works!!!) Think of your child's favorite flavor and use that as the dip for anything else. Some examples: carrots dipped in chocolate sauce, apples dipped in salsa, chicken dipped in caramel sauce, are you seeing where I am going???? If you have a child that you would say is a "picky eater" then this tip is going to be the one for you. There is always one flavor that your child likes and by dipping new foods or foods we "don't like" into that food, they just might eat the food they didn't like. Do not make a face or comment how yucky that seems to you!! Your child will pick up on the fact that you think it's yucky and that will stop all new food exploration.
-Drinks and frozen treats: Experiment with flavor and thickness when it comes to drinks. Try different flavors of smoothies with all the fruit that is now in season and different sized straws. Try making very intense lemonade. Try tomato juice or spicy V-8. Popsicles are really just frozen juice, so play with those. There are popsicles that are very sour or extreme flavors, there are Italian ices that are sour. You can freeze applesauce in small dixie cups with a plastic spoon inside and you have made a healthy popsicle. Some kids don't like the texture of applesauce but will eat it when it's frozen. Freeze "Go Gurts" yogurt or just containers of yogurt...yum. Try eating frozen peas right from the bag, or frozen strawberries.
-Vegetables: There are children that will not eat vegetables but when the bean is picked from the garden in front of the child and just given to them to chew on or take bites, a magical thing might happen and they like them that way. Fresh picked fruit and vegetables taste sweeter and are warm and crunchy and very different from the foods that you get out of a can or from the freezer department. This is another time to try the dipping suggestion.
With all these suggestions try to include your child as much in the preparation as possible. Have the child help you make the smoothie and talk about it....there is your language opportunity. Have them pick which fruit or fruits to use; let them put the ingredients in the blender; let them push the button to make it "go"; "noisy"....so many words to model and opportunities for your child to imitate or use to request or comment.
Also, if you can eat these foods with your child, modelling how yummy you think they taste and modelling the language that your child can use, makes this a perfect activity for your child. If you are eating something they are much more apt that they will want to try it to.
If you are worried about your child choking there is an item in the stores that is like a little mesh bag with a handle that you can put food in and the child chews on the bag but no pieces get through the bag.
Relax and explore and enjoy this activity. I think I need to head for the kitchen, all this talk about food has made me hungry :)
Have a great week!!