Children who have food sensory issues can pose a challenge for parents. They will often refuse certain types of food and try to survive only on their favorites. This isn't a bout of insolence; rather, it goes hand-in-hand with some disorders, like autism. Not to worry, you can work on this by encouraging your tot to eat a variety of food that has different textures and feels. Give him a wide variety to determine what appeals to him. As he gets used to one texture, he'll be more likely to try something new.
Chewy foods can help keep children with sensory issues amused by what they eat. They have to work at it with their mouths and may enjoy the sensation. Some chewy foods include licorice, dried fruit and fruit snacks. Not all of these are healthy, though, so look for those that are natural without added sugar or sulfur. If you aren't sure what the ingredients are, study the label or ask at a health food store. It might also be worthwhile investing in a food dehydrator. You can make fruit leather and dried fruit (and veggies!) in the dehydrator to create more variety. You won't see a lot of dried papaya on the supermarket shelf but nothing is stopping you from making some. You could also try adding a few spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to fruit just so it doesn't always taste the same. A hint of honey can also go a long way.
Crunchy snacks are just as entertaining to eat. Your child will be aware of the texture and noise as she eats. Try giving her fresh, hard vegetables like carrots or celery. Chop them into manageable matchstick-sized pieces for younger children. As she gets older, she'll be able to handle typical julienne-cut vegetables. Other healthy crunchy snacks include pretzels, rice cakes and dry cereals. Choose natural options (no added sugar) and whole grains (like brown rice) when possible.
You may not consider serving wet food when dealing with oral sensitivities, but some kids need to work on these feelings. Sucking up applesauce or slurping soup isn't always appealing. It's messy and feels weird. Try simmering peaches, apples or pears to offer a variety of pureed fruits. Again, create a variety of tastes by using some spices like honey or cinnamon. If your tot doesn't like that, try making homemade smoothies that he can drink with a straw, which can help him get used to the sensation without worrying about the mess.
Some food is appealing because of its texture. Nuts and popcorn, for instance, are crunchy and fun to eat. Ignore any advice to feed popcorn or nuts to your toddler or young preschooler. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend popcorn until children are 5 years old due to a choking hazard. The same goes for nuts. They are also a choking hazard and most children don't chew them properly. You'll notice this if your 2-year-old is still in diapers! You can, however, feed her nut butter, as long as you spread it thinly on crackers or toast. A thick layer of nut butter can also be a choking hazard.
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