"My child just won't try new foods!"
"I keep telling them to just take one bite but they refuse!"
"My child would sit at the table all day before they would take a bite of what I asked them to, so I just stopped trying."
Exhausted mamas- does this sound like you? If so, part three of this healthy eating series is going to be your favorite. In this post, we will talk about a Sensory Hierarchy: what it is, how it works, and how to use it in your home.
Feeding Hierarchy- What is it?
A feeding hierarchy, developed by Dr. Kay Toomey, is designed to enable children to tolerate and interact with new foods before actually eating them. This grants the child permission to feel/be in control of their environment, allowing them to feel good about the choices being made during meals.
Feeding Hierarchy- How does it work?
There are seven steps to the feeding hierarchy:
1. Tolerate/Interact With Food. The child is able to help prepare meals with the new food, meaning they can stir a pot, use a utensil to put it on a plate, etc., and tolerate it sitting on a plate in front of them during a meal.
2. Smell Food. This may be related to smelling the individual food item or simply tolerating the smell of the food in the air during mealtimes.
3. Touch Food. The child is willing/able to use their fingers to touch the food and explore the temperature, the texture, and the way it feels on their fingertips/hands. Once this is accepted, touch is explored moving up the body from the fingertips to the mouth, moving as slowly as needed for the child to accept each phase of this step.
4. Taste Food: This part of the process will allow for touch in and around the mouth, moving as quickly or slowly as tolerated by the child. For example, one food may be tolerated by licking their lips after food is placed on the lips, while another food may be tolerated by biting a piece from a whole, chewing once, and spitting the item into an "all done" bowl. Each child is different, and each food may require different steps.
5. Eat Food: This step involves the child placing the food in their mouth, chewing, and swallowing the food.
Feeding Hierarchy- How can I use this at home?
Each child is different. Each food is different. Feeding is a complex process and therefore requires a process that is tailored to your individual child. If you would like more information regarding how to use a feeding hierarchy to target new foods at mealtimes with your child, please contact our office. We'd love to talk with you more about how to implement this at home for your child.
Chariti is a licensed/certified Speech Language Pathologist in Knoxville, Tennessee and owner of Great Adventures Therapy. LLC.