I realized that I completely forgot to mention the “older” sensory kiddos in my Food School Routine post. I blame it on the heat 🙂 It’s been a pretty warm summer here so far (and honestly I’m probably one of the few that LOVE it). So please forgive my forgetfulness, and let me add just a few more ideas about the food school routine and how to approach it with the older kids (around five years old+).
Most of the routine should stay the same. https://sensoryspeak.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/food-school-routine/. Warming up sensory exercises, washing hands, setting the table, warming up mouth exercises, serving themselves, the clean up routine; but the actual meal program activities may need some tweaking.
- Play lots of games. Older kids tend to be a little bit competitive. The enjoy playing games and they enjoy winning. Knowing this, it’s time to create games with your food. Play tic-tac-toe with the peas, eeny meeny miney mo with your potatoes (B plays this a lot. Whoever touches the food item last answers a specific question. E.g. “What is your favorite movie?”). Make up a board game, laminate it, and use your food as markers to get across the board. The key is to keep it engaging and fun.
- Look at food from a food scientist perspective. Focus on discussing the properties of food. Talk about how the food looks (round, brown, bumpy, wavy), how it feels (smooth, rough, scratchy, sticky, wet), how it smells (be descriptive good doesn’t really describe how an item smells, e.g., “Peas smell like the garden.”), and finally what it tastes like (DO NOT force them to taste. If they are not ready, talk about what you think it tastes like). It’s important to focus on this step in detail. A lot of kids with sensory issues have difficulty recognizing the senses without mixing them up. B would comment that peas smelled green. Well, we know that peas can’t SMELL green.
- Create fun experiments with food they are learning about. Food coloring is great for this. Turn pudding different colors. Mix different foods together and talk about the new texture it made.
- Probably the most natural step. Cook with your child. Don’t force them to do anything they’re not comfortable with, but start with baby steps. Have them press buttons on the microwave, turn on the stove (with assistance of course), press the button on the blender (wearing their noise cancelling headphones if needed) and work your way up from there. Let them frost cookies with different color frosting, knead dough, help make fruit smoothies, make a new popcorn recipe for you (sprinkling with various types of cheese), making you a taco salad….you get the idea 🙂 It’s important to remember that this step is simply about COOKING the food. There is no expectation to eat it once they’ve finished unless they are ready. Cooking is one of the easiest ways to engage kids with food and talk about the properties of food without feeling threatened.
- Allow them to help you menu plan a meal for one day during the week. Everyone eats the food that is picked out by your kiddo. If they are comfortable going along to the store, great! If not, just ask them to pick out some of their favorite (preferred foods) and look at the outing as a mini vacation 🙂
- Create a horizontal rating scale on a sheet of paper from 1-10. Have them rate a new food somewhere on the rating scale (one being a food they can’t stand and ten being a highly preferred food). Write the new food names near the number chosen by your child so everyone can keep track of their overall impressions/progress. You can ask them to re-rate a specific food after they’ve tried it a few times.
- Don’t forget the positive progress chart. Older kids can also come up with an incentive of choice. Reward them each and every time they try or interact with a new food.
I hope this helps give you some helpful hints/guidelines for the older kids as well as the younger kids in my previous blog post. I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have. Have fun and remember it’s okay to play with your food 🙂