6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating Course

6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating CourseSince the launch of Happy Eating Club in 2014, a variety of picky eating course pop-ups have emerged on-line.  Some are being offered by licensed and credentialed health care professionals and some are being offered by popular, non-clinically experienced food bloggers selling meal plans. As new moms navigate through the marketing, it’s becoming a bit more confusing to determine which course to choose. Here are six top questions to ask when choosing a picky eating course.  These questions will empower you to learn not only about the philosophy of the teacher, but also give you a solid understanding of their advanced education, clinical experience, licensing and credentialing.

1. As a Speech Language Pathologist, what is the difference between mainstream responses to eating challenges to those you counsel during pediatric feeding therapy?

I’ve seen so many different mainstream responses to eating challenges in blogs and mom chat rooms, and that includes everything from sneaking in foods, “magic” fixes, all the way to sending children to bed hungry if they don’t eat. While research is clear that none of these methods work for children in the long term, that last one, as a pediatric feeding therapist and as a mother, breaks my heart.

I work with such a giant range of children struggling with eating that I offer a completely different vantage point from my experience. I understand that when children use behavioral refusals it is absolutely an indication that something else is going on at a deeper level, so my response is to look for the underlying problems and to clear them out of the way. Refusals can have a sensory component, a behavioral component, an environmental component OR a combination of all three. I talk about each of these areas in my program to empower families to make a real change!

When children qualify to see me one-on-one for feeding therapy it means that they have an exceptional need. Many times these children are struggling with mealtimes because of an additional diagnosis, musculature weakness or an extreme sensory sensitivity. For these children, their feeding therapy plans are always unique to their individual needs, however, all parents that see me one- on-one gain the bonus of a greater understanding of the complexity of pediatric feeding.

One important component that is always the same is the education provided for parents about feeding milestones, the complicated science of eating, common sabotages to mealtimes and strategies for guiding their child successfully through all of it. Happy Eating Club members get this education too.

2. A lot of parents struggle with children that refuse to eat healthy foods, in your experience, what is a common reason why this occurs?

There can be many causes behind feeding refusals and that makes figuring out what’s happening so cumbersome for parents. Our society places a great amount of attention and focus on the physical or gross motor milestones, like when a child rolls over, crawls or begins to walk, but unfortunately we give much less attention to natural feeding milestones that occur for children as well.

An important feeding milestone that all children experience is called Neophobia, meaning a fear of new foods. Children meet this milestone between the ages of 18 months to 3 years. Some children sail through this milestone easily, but for other children this milestone can be the beginning of long term refusals occurring at the table and plenty of frustration for their parents.

During this stage, children previously judged as “good eaters” begin to reject new food and may even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed. Some evidence suggests that this is a combination of evolutionary protection paired with a psychological or behavioral component. In any case, it’s real and normal for your child to be experiencing this to some degree.

Neophobia is a developmental stage and really should not last a lifetime, but the way that parents react to these refusals will have either a positive or negative effect on their child’s relationship with food and how they move forward.

3. How does understanding feeding milestones affect a child’s eating habits?

Knowledge of feeding milestones and how to proactively meet them in a positive way is a complete game changer for families. When informed parents expect feeding milestones, like Neophobia, they are prepared when their child begins refusing foods. Since many parents believe that these natural developmental refusals are strictly behavioral, they handle these refusals with frustration and punishment. This creates negative experiences at the table and changes the parent-child relationship into one that is working against each other instead of one that’s working together.

Parents can avoid all of this by being prepared, expecting this behavior and understanding that their child has reached an important normal stage. Instead of offering punishment, they can instead offer their child more patience, temporarily lower their volume expectations of refused foods, involve their child in food activities across settings and continue to provide multiple exposures to a healthy variety of foods with a slower, more gradual approach.

4. We believe in positive parenting and don’t label our kids as picky eaters because such negative labeling can be more self-fulfilling than helpful. What are your thoughts on our philosophy?

I love your philosophy on labeling, because I couldn’t agree with you more. When a child has been labeled as a “picky” eater, you’ve defined their behavior and though not intentional, you’ve given them a verbal reason or excuse to refuse new or healthy foods moving forward. As a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, I can say without question that language is powerful. In fact, once parents gain a deeper understanding of how to use language to market food to their children, they can actually begin to transform refusals into new positive food trials or exposures.

Let me explain what I mean. When I have conversations with parents about healthy foods I often hear, “my daughter would never eat that” or “he’s so picky that I stopped trying new foods.” Where do parents go from there? They’ve closed the door on themselves.

For this reason, it is so rewarding to coach parents on changing the language they use about food with their kids. When parents tell me, “it’s not her favorite,” I immediately teach them to add “yet” to the end of that sentence. “It’s not her favorite, yet.”

One of the greatest things that I guide parents to teach their children is that the taste of food changes over time. This happens as we acquire a taste through multiple exposures, but it also happens for children as their taste buds continue to change and evolve as they grow. Instead of dreading offering multiple exposures, I teach parents to use them as a fun way of discovering if their child has gotten “big enough” to enjoy them. When a child tries a food and tells us that they “don’t like it,” our response should always be, “you don’t like it yet and that’s ok for now, but you are going to love it when you get bigger.”

They may not exactly love a food the first or second time, but maybe, just maybe the next time, they just might be “big enough.” Using this strategy dials into a child’s natural desire to be a “big” kid and keeps the door open to try foods again.

5. In Happy Eating Club, you talk about a sensory, behavioral approach to feeding. Can you give some real life context in what that might mean?

Absolutely. Many people believe that eating is easy and it’s really not. Eating is actually the most complex, physical task that human beings engage in and is the only human task which requires each of our organ systems and every muscle in our body to work in simultaneous coordination with all 8 of our sensory systems. As if that wasn’t already enough, additionally, external environmental sources influence how your child grows into eating.

Let’s talk a little deeper about just one of the eight senses – tactile or touch. Children need to explore their foods on the outside of their bodies to gain the tactile feedback needed to feel comfortable enough to place food into their mouths. They need permission to touch food, push it around a little, pick it up with their hands, feel the weight of it and the texture of it.

Touch is giving the body a message about what to expect when food is on it’s way to the mouth. Think about how much information we can gather about a food beforehand: Is the food…cold, crispy, crunchy, damp, dry, firm, fuzzy, gritty, hard, hot, icy, warm, moist, pulpy, rough, slimy, smooth, soft, steamy, sticky, tender, textured, thick, thin, tough, warm, waxy, wet, etc. This tactile information sends messages to our brains and helps prepare our bodies for the texture and temperature that we are about to experience.

Food experiences can feel different for children with every meal. If the first time you offered a food choice was right after it was steamed, stir fried or pureed versus the next time when you’ve prepared it differently (say chicken in a new sauce or paired with different vegetables) — from your child’s developmental perspective, that food is new again. Your children are learning NEW tastes all the time and this includes every time you offer a new combination of foods. Does this mean you can’t mix up your meal planning? Absolutely not! It just means that members of the Happy Eating Club are going to have a greater amount of tools and strategies to guide their child through each new combination, each change, each mealtime, each day.

6. What’s one tip you can give to parents to improve one of their children’s eating habits?

If I could reach every parent out there, I would want them to know that just like it takes time and support for a child to learn to ride a bike or learn read, children also need time and support to grow into loving healthy food. Building a happy, healthy eater is a continuous process. So much research supports that staying positive and avoiding struggles at the table in the early years is fundamental for building a child that makes good food choices for their entire lifetime.

Here is a quick tip that you can try tonight at dinner! If you notice your child has slowed down or isn’t focused on eating, instead of telling them to “eat,” try offering them a controlled choice. (i.e. Are you going to choose broccoli or chicken next? I can’t wait to see!”) When parents offer a controlled choice, it’s a win-win for everyone. Their child gets to feel empowered by making independent decisions about eating and the parents can relax knowing that since the controlled choice offered two healthy options, no matter what choice is made their child’s body is getting the nourishment it needs.

Lastly, I want parents to know that I recognize that since my launch of Happy Eating Club there are now several more options to consider at all different price points. I’m proud that Happy Eating Club offers families the support of a licensed and nationally certified pediatric feeding expert.  Feeding therapy is not about the food or the menu or one mom’s journey. It’s about your child’s body and mind’s response to the act of eating.

It’s about picking an expert that will know what to do for each unique child. There are well-educated, licensed and credentialed health care professionals that work exclusively in pediatric feeding. Parents that are really struggling with mealtimes should always seek out a feeding program ran by a licensed and credentialed expert in the field.  Parents of children who are not meeting milestones should reach out to their pediatrician to ask for a referral to see a Speech Language Pathologist for a pediatric feeding evaluation that will help them get local expert support.

If you are looking for a program that offers the support of a licensed and highly credentialed pediatric feeding specialist with over 10 years of experience helping thousands of children in the health care setting, consider joining Happy Eating Club.

Join my global community for our next round of information sharing, expert advice, researched-based tools and tips and the support of a fully licensed and credentialed pediatric feeding therapist!  You have the power to build a community of true experts in the field of feeding and swallow who understand clinically-based pediatric feeding!  Choose wisely!  Registration for May starts now!  Click here to claim your spot in Happy Eating Club – May 5th!


Holiday Food Crafts For Kids

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Cindy Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Getting your children to the table can sometimes be a daunting task. After all, why in the world would they want to stop playing to head to the table to starting working, right?  In time, they’ll understand the importance of healthy eating, but while your children are still learning to love food it’s important to look for ways to bring them to the table and build positive memories there between mealtimes.  Quick activities lasting 10 minutes or less are perfect opportunities to encourage positive feelings when coming to the table. They also give you something to talk about during mealtimes!

You can certainly choose any number of holiday activities to do at the table, but it’s best when activities are food-focused!  In fact, I L-O-V-E  when children have opportunities to interact with food without the pressure to eat it.  Why?  The answer begins with the fact that everyone involved in a food activity outside mealtimes is relaxed.  Additionally, opportunities to explore foods away from mealtimes allow children to be more open to exploring foods, and this exploration facilitates positive exposures leading to better eating.  So yes, having fun with food away from mealtimes is a wonderful step towards happy eating!

We are well on our way into holiday food crafting at the House of Chew Chew Mama, so I’ve compiled my list of favorites just for you!  So here we go!  First up are two adorable food crafts from Crafty Morning!  Potato stamping ornaments and macaroni wreaths are just as a adorable as they are fun and easy to make.

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids


Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids


Christmas Playdough recipes by Playdough to Plato.  I love that these cute holiday doughs are pure sensory goodness!  They smell delicious and are wonderful to touch and mold.  They will activate those tiny sensory systems for sure and won’t sabotage your mealtimes.  Try one or all of them out.  We have and they are fantastic!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Beans!  Have you ever seen them look so inviting for kids?  This is a fantastic way to let them explore and play to their hearts’ content!  They are learning how much fun green beans can be which is something you can reflect on later (especially if these show up on their plate cooked!) Another fun activity by PlayDough To Plato.

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Cucumber printing on tea towels by Family Fun. Shhh!  Did you hear that?  My heart just skipped a beat because it was so happy and excited about this holiday food craft. Not only does it have children painting with cucumbers, but it gives them an opportunity to make gifts for family members who they love.  I’m sweet on this truly adorable craft!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids


Using scented paints and cookie cutters to make homemade wrapping paper by Nuture Store.  They have used everything from actual spices to cranberry juice to make these awesome sensory paints.  This activity will most certainly build positive memories in the kitchen!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Fork Painting by  No Time For Flashcards.  That’s right, you read that correctly.  FORK PAINTING!  Think about it? How much fun is a fork if you only see it during meals? Spread several sizes out on the table for play and go for it.  Build those fun memories!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Peppermint scented rice by Learn Play Imagine.  If you haven’t tried to make this before, let me start by saying, fear not!  This holiday craft is quick and easy and provides hours of entertainment.  You can play hide and seek with small items, you can scoop, transfer and pour or you can simply drive toy cars through it.  What’s happening? Positive exposures to scents and textures – among other things!  Every winter, our sand table comes inside and converts into a rice table.  I’m a big fan!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Orange Pomanders by Southern Living.  Seriously so easy to make and smells fantastic too.  This holiday craft gets in positive exposures, smells and fine motor to boot!  Just throw caution to the wind and work on patterns while you’re at it!  You can use these for holiday decor or simply make one for every room to enjoy the holiday scent!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Cranberry and Popcorn Garland by Domestic Serenity.   These are so sweet!  I made cranberry and popcorn garland growing up to decorate the trees outside.  I remember feeling excited and working so hard to give all the winter animals a holiday treat to dine on.  As long as your child is old enough to use a sewing needle safely and responsibly and is under your supervision this is a wonderful tradition to adopt.

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids

Holiday Potpourri by Heather Likes Food.  Last but not least, get your kids in the kitchen!  Let them take the lead in filling the pot with all the ingredients and help you fill it with water.  As your home begins to smell amazing, remind them that the pot in the kitchen is doing that!

Holiday Food Crafts For Your Kids


I hope that you try one or all of these fun holiday food crafts for kids!  Let me know which one you like best and send me a photo of your food focused kids doing some holiday food crafts!  Have a happy, healthy holiday season!

Do you have a picky eater?  Are you tired of battles or straight up refusals at mealtimes?

Get the support you need in the New Year with Happy Eating Club!

Enroll now using discount code “chewchew30” to save 30%.  Limited spots available.

Play with your children to build language

Play with your kids to build language

Aimee Brigham, MCD, CCC-SLP

Did you know that playing with your children builds language?

When parents observe therapy sessions, they often remark, “What fun! Playing all day.” They are absolutely right. Pediatric, speech-language pathologists love to play. What sometimes goes unrecognized is that this type of play can be hard work for both the client and the clinician. Speech therapists often use goal oriented play in their sessions, whether it is aimed at teaching a child to articulate /s/ accurately, or modeling the use of irregular past tense markers, or increasing comprehension of 2-step directions, or engaging a child in a turn-taking activity. In fact, most pediatric goals are initiated and practiced during playful interactions because “play offers an opportunity to organize intervention episodes that engage children and facilitate practice (Adler 2012).”

Throughout my practice, I have witnessed many children who need to learn how to play. For them, playing did not come innately or by watching others play. Playing is the way friendships are woven in youth. And, every parent wants his or her child to play with other children. Some children do not demonstrate the ability to stack blocks, to talk on a make-believe phone, to feed a baby doll, or to take turns with a peer. Intervention targeting play foundations is an important speech and language goal for these children. Leslie Adler adds, “Playing is one of the primary occupations of children, and when they are playing they are participating in life (Adler, 2012).” Stating the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kenneth Ginsburg says, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth (Ginsburg, 2007).” As one can see, the common phrase, “Let’s play!” is quite complex when underway.

What is Play?

Play is a process – the outcome is not as important as the process itself.
Play is child-initiated. Activities are created for no other reason than experimentation.
In play, everything and anything can happen: a sheet over a table becomes a castle and the little girl inside the princess. Functions of objects are transformed.
Play becomes an arena for testing rules, both logical and illogical. Rules freely appear and disappear in play.
Play is an activity of the mind. Children may become deeply engrossed in play and find it difficult to stop. (S.C.Hurwitz, 2003)

Free play, play that is child-driven, rambunctious, and unstructured, is the most important kind of play (S.C. Hurwtiz 2003). During free play, children learn new vocabulary and increase auditory comprehension skills. They practice cognitive skills including, problem solving, creativity, and self-regulation. Social skills are demonstrated during play when a child initiates, interacts, and compromises with his or her communicative partner. In addition, strategies to cope with feelings of excitement, fear, anger, and frustration are vented during play. Children are constantly learning and growing during play. “Having control over the course of one’s own learning, as in free play, promotes desire, motivation, and mastery (Erikson, 1985).”
Now let’s talk about being successful when playing, as success is very important. Without a feeling of success, participation and engagement decrease. Some children may revert to atypical types of play, such as repetitive play and self-stimulating play. For play to remain organic and fun, scaffolding, giving support, is necessary. Scaffolding can take many forms, from altering the environment to encourage play or decreasing distractions to encourage focused attention. Using visual aids to assist in play sequences and modeling language needed for games and playful interactions are also considered scaffolds.

Stages of play:

Exploratory Play (around 6-8 months) – At this stage, children are becoming familiar with objects through observation and exploration. This play is not goal oriented. Children are motivated to understand more about the objects in play. Fingering, mouthing, banging, and listening are witnessed at this stage.
Constructive Play (around 12 months) – Here, children manipulate their environment to build things. Toys are used for their intended purpose (building with blocks, drawing with markers, digging in sand, brushing a doll’s hair). Constructive play develops imagination, problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, and self esteem(R. Owens 2011).
Symbolic Play (around 18 months)–Children use objects to represent other objects in play. They may use a block as a train or a plastic banana as a telephone.
Rules and Games (school aged) – Children impose rules and roles during play at this stage. Self-regulation, cooperation, and flexibility are needed (Frost 2004). Here, children are seen role-playing life scenarios, making rules to pretend games, and playing games with set rules.

In today’s world of after-school schedules and modern technology, children seem to be playing less and less. Technology, screen time, has replaced time spent playing alone, with a friend, or with a sibling. In addition, free play in school is sneakily being redefined as choice time or center time in an effort to keep classrooms calm with engaged students. School districts are reducing recess time and creative arts time to focus on mathematics and reading (Dillon, 2006). Pediatricians want children playing more; they want children interacting with peers and increasing their fun, rambunctious, free-play (Ginsburg 2007). Right now, you may be asking, “How can I increase free play in the home?”
Here’s how…Be silly, get creative, and have fun with your kids. Schedule times in the day where children are expected to play alone for short intervals, younger children may require scaffolding and very short intervals to be successful at independent play. It is OK for children to state they are “bored.” Sometimes when children are “bored” they are really thinking, problem solving, and reflecting on life events. And mostly, play should not be work. The point of play is that is has no point.

Play Temptations by Stage:

Exploratory play – Schedule times in the day where you can sit, eye-level and face to face, with your child and explore toys. Seek out objects that make noise, have cause and effect, and are brightly colored. Model language and exploration during play.

Constructive play – Sensory bins (i.e. sand, water, rice) are great for this level of play. Model pouring, shoveling, burying, and stirring. Watch your child to see what interests her/him, model language and expand on his/her verbalizations.

Symbolic play – Promote pretend play activities by setting up an environment of play, such as a barber-shop, a doctor’s clinic, or a pizza parlor. Help your child make symbolic items to be used in play. For example, a pizza oven can be made from an used gift box; play dough can pizza dough.

Rules and Games – Research shows that visual aids help children create imaginary play and promote language (Adler 2012). Make imaginary play bins: bins filled with scarves, eyeglasses, and silly slippers. Place a large mirror in the play space, children love watch themselves acting silly. Have a box of old-school board games available: chutes and ladders, operation, connect four, Hi-Ho Cherrio, etc.

Adler, L. “Linking Play to Function: Utilizing NDT and SI Strategies to Facilitate Functional Skills Through Play.” Education Resources. 2012 p.1-10.
Dillon S. Schools cut back subjects to push reading and math. New York Times. March 26, 2006;1:1.
Erickson, R. J. (1985). Play contributes to the full emotional development of the child. Education, 105(3), 261-263.
Frost, Joe L., Pei-San Brown, John A. Sutterby, Candra D. Thornton. The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International, 2004. p. 25.

Ginsburg, Kenneth. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Childhood Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, Pediatrics.2007, 199:182-191.
Hurwitz Sally C. To be successful: let them play! Child Educ. 2002/ 2003;79:101–102.
Metrocom International (Producer) for Michigan Television. (2007). Where do the children play? [DVD]. Ann Arbor: Regents of the University of Michigan.
Owens, Robert. Language Development: An Introduction. Allyn and Bacon, 2001. Print.
*Why Do Children Play?” Mesa Community College. The Developmental Psychology Student NetLetter. http://www.mesacc.edu/dept/d46/psy/dev/Spring98/earchild/index.html > 27 Aug. 2010.

Why Holiday Eating Is Hard For Young Kids


Cindy Hooks Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

The Holidays are among us!  Are you ready for the next round?

I love holidays.  I love seeing family and friends.  I love planning wonderful food. I love picking out special gifts for the people I hold nearest and dearest and I love remembering families in our community with love. Holidays are busy, exciting, and full of spirit!

But do you know what else they are filled with?  They are full of kids that WILL NOT EAT WELL.

Since you’re bound to experience at least one set of raised eyebrows at a holiday table this year, here are some things you should know.

Holidays present their own unique challenges for kids when it comes to eating. Eating is a 100% sensory experience, meaning that on a regular day, healthy eating is hard work for little ones. During the holidays, we increase our feeding expectations and though unintentional, we make holiday mealtimes even harder for our kids.

Everything they are used to around mealtimes changes and all at once.  Yes, it’s true!  The table they eat at often changes, the type of dishes they’ll eat from (as you bring out the good stuff), the type of food you’ll make, the volume of foods you’ll prepare, the number of courses and choices available and even the number of guests that will be watching them eat. Pressure is on. It’s all different. Seriously, right down to their festively adorable, but possibly stiff, itchy or glittery brand new holiday attire they will be required to sit in.

During the holidays your child’s whole reliable world spirals off it’s access into a new sensory wonderland. Is it really any wonder that they want to flee the table like it’s a crime scene and run to go play with their cousins?

There is something else that changes during the holidays? THE SNACKING. Bring on the extreme holiday bread, cookie and candy making for the ones we love. Seriously! We are so excited about cookies this time of year that magazines dedicate entire issues to them, we host parties just to swap them and we even build houses out of them – even giving our children tubes full of icing to use as paste. Yes, paste. To paste on candy!

We practically throw sugar and carbs at our kids with a smile and they are T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D. We love seeing them happy and we’re happy too, because “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” just ask Andy Williams.  These holiday food rituals are a rite of passage. We did all of this when we were young and our kids will be fine, right?

Yes and no. If you’re struggling with eating this time of year can make that worse. And if not, this time of year could trigger a start for some children. Why?  Kids are reaching their caloric intake needs for the day with every holiday snack and cocoa break. Later, when you serve up a nutritious dinner, despite your best efforts, they aren’t going to eat it. They’re full. For real. They have no room left. And guess what…it’s not their fault.

So what’s a parent to do?

Do we lock up the cookies and demo the gingerbread houses?  No!  Let’s be real with each other. Holidays are about love and tradition…and about the food.  It’s a part of our culture that is not going anywhere. Despite the urge to construct a house out of whole wheat crackers, hummus and carrot coins, go ahead a give in to the gingerbread. Have fun with your kids. Research shows us that restricting foods, makes our children want them even more. Teach your kids that it’s ok to indulge in moderation. Get in healthy foods and snacks early in the day, so that there’s less pressure on all of you at dinner.  Be mindful of the amount of snacking you’re allowing and all of the changes that happen for your kids during the holidays. Pair that knowledge with realistic expectations of them at your holiday tables.  Hug your kids. Tell them their awesome and they make you proud.

Holidays allow us to pass on our family’s traditions and gift us with building new memories with our kids. Families come together to talk, laugh, sing, forgive, pray and love!  There’s no room in that for stressing over what the kids are not eating at the holiday table.  Focus on the love. Set yourselves up for success and relax.  If someone raises an eyebrow at your child’s holiday eating, smile and politely remind them that eating is hard work for kids!

Happy, Healthy Holidays!