Starfish Therapies

August 1, 2016

Developmental Playgroup – Self-Help (Part 1)

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 5:33 pm
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drinking2

This past week we looked at Self-Help skills during our developmental playgroups.  Here is a brief overview of some of the things discussed.  We will provide more detail in coming weeks!

Birth- 4 months:

  • Express the need for food by crying
  • Signal the need for diaper changes
  • Express pleasure when placed in warm water (bathing)
  • Will eventually begin to help by using their own hands to guide the nipple

4-8 months:

  • Show interest in feeding activities
  • Can pull off their own socks
  • Can velcro closures on clothing

8-12 months:

  • Begin to hold their own cup and drink
  • Begin to eat finger foods
  • Begin to pull off soiled or wet diaper
  • Begin to sleep until 6 or 8 am.

12-24 months:

  • Use a spoon to some degree to feed themselves
  • Have good control of a cup
  • Begin to try and wash themselves
  • Begin to help with dressing
  • By age 2 they may begin to gain control of bowels and bladder

24-36 months:

  • Increasingly able to feed self and use cup/glass
  • Can generally undress themselves
  • Show signs of being ready for toilet training

Activities/ Things to remember when teaching or promoting self help skills:

  • Decreasing amount of assistance given during activities (ie less assistance with silverware during mealtimes)
  • Establish a routine/create a daily schedule
  • Focus on the learning instead of the length of time to finish the task
  • Rewards are best when naturally occurring in the environment

 

7 Self-Care Milestones to Look Forward To:

As the sense of self increases, so will your child’s achievements in self-care. He’ll naturally develop and fine-tune his motor skills over the next three years to master:

  1. Using a fork and spoon: Some toddlers start wanting to use utensils as early as 13 months, and most children have figured out this all-important skill by 17 or 18 months. By age 4, your child will probably be able to hold utensils like an adult and be ready to learn table manners.
  2. Undressing: While the ability to take his own clothes off may lead to lots of naked-toddler chase sessions, it’s a key accomplishment. Most children learn to do it sometime between 13 and 24 months.
  3. Toothbrushing: Your child may start wanting to help with this task as early as 16 months, but probably won’t be able to handle a toothbrush skillfully until sometime between her third and fourth birthdays. Even then, dentists say, kids can’t do a thorough job on their teeth until much later.
    • Pediatric dentists recommend that parents do a thorough brushing of their kids’ teeth every night until school age or later. As a compromise, if your child is eager to brush, let her do the morning brushing herself. Or let her brush first, and then you finish up.
  4. Washing and drying hands: This skill develops at 24 months or so and is something kids should learn before or at the same time as using the toilet – you don’t want your child spreading germs.
  5. Getting dressed: Your little one may be able to put on loose clothing as early as 24 months, but he’ll need a few more months before being able to manage a T-shirt, and another year or two after that before he’ll really be able to get dressed all by himself. Also at 24 months, he’ll probably be able to pull off his shoes.
  6. Using the toilet: Most kids aren’t physically ready to start toilet training until they’re at least 18 to 24 months old. Two key signs of readiness for a child include being able to pull her pants up and down by herself and knowing when she has to go before it happens.
  7. Preparing breakfast: Toddlers as young as 3 may be able to get themselves a bowl of cereal when they’re hungry, and most kids can do it by the time they’re 4 1/2. If your child wants to give this a whirl, make it easy by leaving kid-size containers of cereal and milk in the cupboard and fridge.

References:

  1. http://www.floridahealth.gov/AlternateSites/CMS-Kids/providers/early_steps/training/itds/module1/lesson1_3.html
  2. http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=676
  3. http://www.childcarequarterly.com/summer08_story2.html
  4. http://www.babycenter.com/0_toddler-milestone-self-care_6503.b

July 25, 2016

Developmental Playgroup – Cognition (Part 1)

Under

Cognition was the most recent topic at the Developmental Playgroups this past week.  It is broken down into: Cause and Effect, Spatial Relationships, Problem Solving, Imitation, Memory, Number Sense, Classification, Symbolic Play, Attention Maintenance, and Understanding of Personal Care Routines.  Because it covers such a wide range, for the purposes of the blog, we will break it into smaller components.  This post covers Cause and Effect, and Spatial Relationships.

Cause and Effect:  Cause and Effect looks at a relationship between actions/events and what the reslt is.  This concept helps infants/children to develop an understanding of object properties, relationships between and event and the consequences, and patterns of human behavior. By developing an understanding of this concept, infants/children are able to build their abilities to solve problems, make predictions, and understand the impact their behavior has on others.

  • Examples: crying and being picked up, shaking a toy and hearing it make noises, pushing a button on a toy and having music play.

Some milestones/age appropriate activities for this concept are:

  • 4-7 months:
    • Hear a loud noise and turn head in the direction of the noise
    • Explore toys with hands and mouth
    • Move body in a rocking motion to get the infant care teacher to continue rocking
  • 8 months: Children perform simple actions to make things happen, notice the relationships between events, and notice the effects of others on the immediate environment.
    • Shake toy, hear the sound and shake it again
    • Watch someone wind up a toy and then touch the toy trying to make it go off again
    • Push button on toy to watch it light up/something pop out.
  • 9-17 months:
    • Bang two blocks together
    • Keep turning objects to find the side that works (mirror or nesting cup)
    • Cry and anticipate someone to come help them
    • Continuously drop an item to have someone come pick it up
    • Watch someone perform an action and then try to imitate- squeeze water toys.
  • 18 months: Children combine simple actions to cause things to happen or change the way they interact with objects and people in order to see how it changes the outcome.
    • Attempt to wind up the toy after not getting the lid to open
    • Drop various objects from different heights to observe how they fall – what noise they make
    • Making tower of blocks and knocking them over
  • 36 months:
    • Demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect by making predictions about what could happen and reflect upon what caused something to happen
    • Communicates that they miss someone/cries after they leave
    • Make a prediction about what will happen next in the story
    • Ask what happened if they see a band aid

Spatial Relationships: Spatial Relationship looks at how an object is located in relation to a reference object.  Understanding this concept helps infants/children gain a better understanding of numbers as they get older as well as how things move and fit in space.

  • Examples: exploring objects with their mouths, tracking objects and people visually, squeezing into tight spaces, fitting objects into openings, and looking at things from different perspectives (Mangione, Lally, and Signer 1992).

Some milestones/age appropriate activities for this concept are:

  • 4 to 7 months:
    • Look and explore their own hand
    • Reach for nearby items
    • Explore toys with hands and mouth
  • 8 months: Children move their bodies, explore the size and shape of objects, and observe people and objects as they move through space.
    • Use vision or hearing to track the path of someone walking by
    • Hold one stacking cup in each hand
  • 9-17 months:
    • Roll a car back and forth on the floor
    • Dump toys out of a container
    • Move over and between cushions and pillows on the floor
    • Put the circle piece of a puzzle into the round opening, after trying the triangle opening and the square opening
  • 18 months: Children use trial and error to discover how things move and fit in space.
    • Go around the back of a chair to get the toy car that rolled behind it instead of trying to follow the car’s path by squeezing underneath the chair
    • Use two hands to pick up a big truck, but only one hand to pick up a small one
    • Put a smaller nesting cup inside a larger cup after trying it the other way around.
  • 19 -35 months:
    • Complete a puzzle of three separate cut-out pieces, such as a circle, square, and triangle
    • Turn a book right-side up after realizing that it is upside down
    • Fit four nesting cups in the correct order, even if it takes a couple of tries

We will go over the remaining concepts in some follow up posts!

References:

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdev.asp#sr

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdcsr.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdps.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdimit.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdmem.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdclas.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdpers.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdattm.asp

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-8-to-12-Months.aspx

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February 4, 2016

Childhood Occupations

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:50 pm
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Childhood Occupations

We often get asked ‘What is Occupational Therapy,’ especially when we are talking about it in reference to a child.  As a result we thought we would publish a breakdown based on the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework to help give people a better understanding.

As Occupational Therapy refers to how one occupies their time, it is a profession that believes in daily participation in occupational routines. As defined by the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, a child participates in the following occupations including: Activities of Daily Living, Rest and Sleep, Education, Play and Social Participation. Each occupation is taken into consideration during your child’s treatment and as such obtaining an understanding of these areas will contribute to the families ability to work in collaboration with the OT and develop the ability to transfer skills into the child’s daily routine to foster independence. The following descriptions are taken from the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework.

Activities of Daily Living: Activities that are oriented toward taking care of one’s own body. These activities are, “fundamental to living in a social world; they enable basic survival and well being.” They include:

  • Bathing/Showering: obtaining/using supplies, maintaining positioning, transferring to and from bathing position
  • Bowel/Bladder Management & Toilet Hygiene: intentional control, obtaining/using supplies, clothing management, transferring on/off the toilet
  • Dressing: selecting appropriate clothing, obtaining clothing from a storage area, dressing/undressing in a sequential pattern
  • Eating: the ability to keep and manipulate food or fluid in the mouth/swallow
  • Feeding: the process of setting up, arranging and bringing food/fluid to the mouth
  • Functional Mobility: moving from one position in space to another during performance of everyday activities such as those listed in this post
  • Personal Hygiene/Grooming: obtaining and using supplies to brush hair, groom nails, wash hands, clean mouth etc

Rest and Sleep: Including activities related to obtaining restorative rest and sleep that supports healthy active engagement in other areas of occupation.

  • Rest: quiet and effortless actions that interrupt physical and mental activity including identifying need to relax to restore energy, calm and renew interest in engagement
  • Sleep: a series of activities resulting in going to sleep, staying asleep
  • Sleep preparation: engaging in routines that prepare the self for comfortable rest including grooming, reading, setting an alarm etc.

 Education: Includes activities needed for learning and participating in the environment.

  • Formal educational participation: including categories of academic classes, nonacademic (e.g. recess), extracurricular (e.g. sports)
  • Informal personal education participation: participating in classes, programs, and activities that provide instruction/training in identified areas of interest

Play: A spontaneous or organized activity that provides enjoyment, entertainment, amusement or diversion.

  • Play Exploration: identifying appropriate play activities, which can include exploration play, practice play, pretend play, games with rules, constructive play and symbolic play
  • Play Participation: participating in play maintaining a balance of play with other areas of occupation; and obtaining using and maintaining toys, equipment, and supplies appropriately

Social Participation: Organized patterns of behavior that are characteristic and expected of an individual or given position within a social system.

  • Community: engaging in activities that result in successful interaction at the community level (i.e. neighborhood, organization, work, school)
  • Family: engaging in successful interactions in specific required and/or desired family roles
  • Peer, Friend: engaging at different levels of intimacy

 

Reference: Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain & Process 2nd Edition. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Novemeber/December 2008, 62:6, pg. 631-633.

January 21, 2016

Superhero Fun

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 10:53 pm
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IMG_9493
Who doesn’t love pretending to be a superhero? We had a Superhero week at the clinic, and as a result thought it would be fun to list some gross motor activities that we came up with that your child could practice while pretending to be their favorite superhero!
1. Imitating various animals, such as a spider, while pretending to be Spiderman. By imitating various animals, children can work on coordination of their arms and legs, improve their motor planning, learn how to move their body in space, and improve their overall strength. Some animals to try include: bear, crab, spider, snake, horse, and frog.
2. Practicing jumping forwards, in place, down from a step or hopping while pretending to be Batman jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper trying to catch the foes and save the day! By practicing jumping and hopping skills, a child is working to improve their coordination, standing balance, and strength of their leg musculature.
3. Practice running “faster than a speeding bullet” like Superman does on both even and uneven surfaces. Running can help improve a child’s cardiovascular and muscular endurance, improve leg  strength as well as improve coordination. For younger children working on floor mobility skills, have your child pretend to fly like Superman, lifting their head, arms and legs off of the floor, which will help to improve the strength of their neck and trunk muscles.
Be creative and allow your child to use their imagination to come up with activities that their favorite superhero might do!

January 14, 2016

Knee Bounces, Lap Bounces, and Lap Jogs

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 1:00 pm
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Puppy Rides
Different names but all one and the same activity. Do you remember these from when you were young? Sitting as child on an adult lap and bouncing or swaying in time to a tune or poem. Knee bounces are a wonderful activity for so many reasons. Common benefits include a child spending time engaged with the parent or learning new rhythms and vocabulary from poem or hearing and feeling a beat at the same time. Not commonly known are the therapeutic benefits from knee bounces.
Lap bounces can be a wonderful way to encourage eye contact and language. When a child requests more, as therapists and parents, we typically ask for eye contact and the initiation of movement or the utterance of a word or phrase or sign. These help with the development of language by having a shared, enjoyable activity that elicits communication to repeat the desired activity.
More sneaky therapeutic benefits are trunk strengthening and balance responses. Completing the knee bounces slowly and pausing at the end range is a fun way to work on trunk strengthening and giving the child the chance to initiate a response to the loss of balance in a secure and fun way.
Another therapeutic benefit includes eye (ocular) and inner ear (vestibular) exercises. When a child is being moved in space and their eyes are locked onto their reflection in a mirror or to the parent’s face it helps to teach them how to use these two senses to tell where they are in space and how to right themselves.

Please give lap bounces a try. Look up lap bounces on the internet and see what you find or click on this link for one example, YouTube Video.

Please let us know what you find and if this works for you.

January 7, 2016

Diaper Changes, Brushing Teeth, and Stretches – Oh My

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 9:12 pm
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crawlingbaby

Once we have children we realize so many activities are not enjoyable but necessary. Who hasn’t had a battle over a diaper change, brushing teeth or completing a stretch? How can we lessen the battles that occur over uncomfortable and undesirable activities?
One way to do this is to reframe the activity in one’s own mind. Washing my child’s hair can become a wonderful activity because it is the only time I get to spend time close with him as he does not want physical attention. A diaper change can become a fun activity that is based on undivided attention, tickles, songs, and love.
How do we turn this around? We start with reframing the activity in our parental mind. Second realize that the battle may derive from the fact that the child does not understand that the activity is finite and will end soon. If we believe a situation is uncomfortable and do not understand that the end is soon we also battle and fret. Help the child understand the end point is near. Try setting a timer for the activity. Once the timer rings the activity ends, even if it is not to our liking. Once the song is over the activity ends or once we count to fifty the activity ends. The child begins to learn that the activity is finite and the battle lessens. Once this basic lesson is learned we can slowly and slyly extend the time by setting the timer a bit longer, or singing the song more slowly, or asking for help while counting.
Lastly remember that most of us enjoy novel experiences. During the undesirable activities, have a basket of books or toys that are only available during said activity. Silly putty, a lava lamp, a glue and glitter bottle are all easy, enjoyable and distracting items. Here is a link to making a glue and glitter bottle. These are a wonderful distraction!

Have you figured out anything other activities that work? Please let us know so we can pass on the information to other parents.

June 1, 2015

Therapeutic Benefits of Swimming on MamaOT

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 2:55 pm
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swimming

We are lucky enough to be participating in a series on the Therapeutic Benefits of Recreational Activities over on MamaOT.

Our post is the first in the series and we are discussing the Therapeutic Benefits of Swimming.  Growing up as a swimmer I was beyond excited to get to discuss this activity that is near and dear to my heart.  I hope you enjoy the read and it encourages  you to ‘take the plunge’ and go for a swim!

October 28, 2014

Some Game Ideas with a Halloween Theme

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 7:00 am
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 Jack-o-lanterns
In case you need to fill some time between school and trick or treating or just want to provide some new activities for your child to explore instead of hearing them plead for just one more piece of candy, here are some ideas!

1. Play Freeze with Monster Mash: Put on everyone’s favorite Halloween tune and call out a position they have to freeze in each time you pause the music.  For example, standing on one foot, bear position, crab position, or roll up like ball, etc. It’s up to you how long to have them freeze and challenge their core muscles and balance in different positions.

2.  Pumpkin Play: If you are done with your pumpkins for decoration (and they aren’t too rotten), you can let your children explore different ways to play with them.  With smaller pumpkins, you can play bowling.  You can use any objects around the house for bowling pins, such as empty plastic bottles with a little rice in the bottom.  If they want they can even decorate the pins to go with the halloween theme.  Another idea would be to play ring toss using pumpkins that have longer stems.  You can cut rings out of cardboard or maybe you have rings from another game that you can take out and toss over to the pumpkin stem. I’m sure once you get started playing with pumpkins, your kids with think of a few to add to the list!

3.  Spider Web Challenge: Using painter’s tape, you can make a spider web on the floor inside or outside and mark off a clear start and finish.  If you have any plastic spiders around for Halloween, place them in the holes of the web scattered around or you can make spiders out of paper.  Ask your child to walk along the web (tape) while picking up the spiders along the way.  This challenges balance to walk on a narrow line as well as by having to reach down and outside the base of support for the spiders without stepping off the web.

 

If this sparks your creativity and you come up with other fun Halloween games we would love to hear about it! Happy Halloween!

October 22, 2014

Toys, Toys, Toys

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 7:02 am
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toys1

 

It’s almost that time of year again! Time to brave the crowded malls and search for the perfect gift for the children we love. One of the biggest questions we get as pediatric therapists, is what can we get them that will help their motor skills. For those of you still searching, here is a list of ideas of toys and games that are not only great gift ideas, but can also help your kids develop their fine and gross motor skills while playing.

 

1)   Baby Einstein Play Gym: For your newborns. A play gym is a great way to encourage play and exploration while laying on their back or their tummy. While lying on their back, different items can encourage children to kick and reach overhead or across their body to eventually encourage motor skills like rolling. The play gym can also encourage tummy time, which will help build neck and trunk extensor strength, scapular stability in their shoulders, endurance to further progress their motor skills towards getting onto hands and knees and crawling.
2)    Play tent with a tunnel: Tents with tunnels can encourage crawling and bilateral coordination. Crawling through the tunnel into the tent will allow your child to practice weight shifting and using a reciprocal crawling pattern, build their core strength, develop the arches in their hands, and play in quadruped and tailor sitting in the tent.
3)    Push Toy: A push toy is a great gift for a kiddo who already pulling to stand and cruising and starting to explore learning how to walk. You can try the shopping cart and wagon type push toys if your child likes to transport their toys with them or once that converts to a sit and ride toy if they just can’t wait to get on that bike.
4)    Learning Table: A learning table is a great toy for way to encourage your child to get upright. You can practice playing in a tall kneel, a ½ kneel, or pulling to stand through a ½ kneel and standing. The lights, songs, numbers and letters on the tabletop provide motivation for your child rise to a new level and begin working on upright motor skills. You can place it against a wall or in a corner if your child needs a little more stability or in the middle of the room if they are learning to stand with a little less stability.
5)    Hippity Hops: A ball with handles is a great way to help your child build coordination, balance, and strength. You child will have to use their core and leg strength in order to bounce and maintain their balance while hopping on the ball. A hippity hop can also provide great vestibular and proprioceptive input with the bouncing for the kiddos who are seeking out more sensory input.
6)    Sturdy Birdy by Fat Brain Toy Co: This game is a fun and exciting game to work on kid’s balance, coordination and core strength. If your child is having trouble with single leg balance tasks such as skipping and hop scotch, this game provides them with the opportunity to work on this task. By balancing on one leg, not only are they practicing the motor task, but they are building strength in their hips and core musculature that will allow them to continue to progress in their gross motor development.
7)    Step 2 Folding Slide: This slide is a perfect toy that can be used in doors or out doors. It allows your child to build leg strength and core strength and develop the skills necessary to walk up stairs. Climbing up the ladder provides kids with practice of the same motor pattern and strengthening of specific leg muscles that are used to walk up stairs, with extra support from the rails. Sliding down the slide can also help build core and trunk musculature to maintain or improve postural control and balance.
8)    Super Skipper: The super skipper is a great way to help your child practice timing and grading of jumping skills. By jumping to different songs at different speeds, kiddo’s can develop their jumping skills to progress to more advanced gross motor skills, such as hop scotch and jump roping.
9)    Giant Piano Mat: This is a fun way to practice more jumping skills and balance activities. Your child can work on single leg balance, single leg hopping, walking on tiptoes and jumping while building their creative and musical skills. This is also a great way to work on coordination skills. With prerecorded songs, your child can practice specific steps to a song.
10) Sensory stepping stones: Each stepping stone has a different texture that will provide new tactile input to your child’s feet or hands by crawling, walking, jumping or hopping onto each stone. Not only can kid’s work on their balance and gross motor activities, but they can also get sensory input.
11) Scooter board or skateboard: This is a great way for kiddos to work on upper extremity, core and trunk strength. Your child can lie on their belly on the board as they use their arms to pull themselves along the floor. Not only are they using their arm muscles but also engaging their core and trunk extensors to keep their head and body up on the board.
12) Side walk chalk: Sidewalk chalk is a great tool to work on all sorts of gross motor activities. You can draw a hopscotch grid to work on single leg hopping, coordination and balance. If the kiddo is not comfortable with single leg hopping yet, try practicing the hopscotch with two feet. Have them practice jumping with their feet apart and then feet together to work on coordinating movements, then once they have mastered that pattern, slowly practice switching from two legs to one and then one legs to two. You can draw different items on the ground and practice jumping on them or create a start and finish line of a race to work on running. The visual cue of different colors or drawings on the sidewalk can help kiddos focus better on the task that they are attempting.
13) Nubby ball: This is a great way to work on ball skills, such as throwing, catching and kicking. The texture can also provide sensory input to those kiddos who are seeking more tactile input as well. The increased tactile input could also help their awareness when attempting catching and gripping. For more advanced kids practicing ball skills can be great for single leg balance and coordinating movements of arms and legs. As kids get older, they can begin to build interests in certain sports.
14) Kinetic Sand: It feels like sand, but is not nearly as messy to clean up. Kinetic Sand helps improve tactile awareness, and fine motor skills. Kids can squeeze it and shape it to build different items and let their creativity bloom. The feeling of the sand can provide children with new tactile input that can decrease stress and allow for improved exploration to different tactile surfaces. The squishy material can also help improve fine motor skills, allowing kids to build their hand musculature and gripping techniques by forming different size structures.
15) Constructive Eating plate and Utensil Set: For those picky eaters. The 3-piece utensil set includes a bulldozer pusher, front loader spoon and forklift fork with textured handles that are easy to grip. The plate has ramps and parking spaces for food and utensils. This is a great gift to help engage children with their eating, as well as work on their fine motor skills of gripping and grasping and using their utensils to access food.

 

Happy Shopping!

July 9, 2013

Guest Post – I Can Do it Myself: Messy Steps to Self Feeding

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 7:26 pm
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by Melanie Potuck

drinking2

Chapter Three

Isaac’s grandmother diligently swiped his chin with the tip of the spoon after every bite, ensuring that no puree remained on his face. She kept a wet washcloth nearby for swiftly wiping down soiled fingers and the high chair tray should any food drip off the spoon. “He likes to be neat and clean,” she stated proudly. Isaac was 18-months-old and had yet to touch a spoon or any food on his tray. Thankfully, this grandmother was open to my suggestions and, months later, Isaac, Grandma and I were elbow-deep in chocolate as we played pudding car wash on his back patio! That grandmother later told me: “If you haven’t played pudding car wash, you’re missing out on life!”

I always turn my radar up a bit when I see a one-year-old sitting in his high chair, being fed by his parent and spotless — not a mess under the high chair, not a stain on his bib, not a speck on his tray. Well-meaning parents try to spare their child (and themselves) the mess by continuing to spoon feed their little one. Not only is the mess part of the learning curve for self-feeding, it’s essential for children to encounter the sensory experience of each and every food. Many children need to first explore new foods with their eyes, ears, nose and hands before putting it in their mouths. Please refer to Chapter 4 for more information on sensory experiences with food.

Once your child is sitting on her own or with a bit of support and you have her properly positioned in her high chair (see Chapter 1), she is ready to begin more independent feeding. This stage of the game is all about you providing a variety of safe foods for her to try, engaging with her as she eats and letting her get messy as she explores all of the new foods.

Self-spoon feeding is an art. You can support your child by encouraging her to hold the handle of the spoon fairly close to the bowl. This varies depending on the shape of the handle, but, in general, the closer her little fist is to the bowl, the easier she will be able to guide the bowl into her mouth with less mess. Keep in mind that the closer her fist is to the bowl, the messier her hand will get when she scoops up that first spoonful of applesauce!

Try coloring a wide circle around the handle with a permanent marker so that she has a consistent spot to aim for when she grasps the handle. Pick a spot for her grasp about one inch from the bowl, or, if the handle is curved, have her grasp it at the top of the curve. A short, fat handle with a curve or “hill” built into the handle is often ideal. The deeper bowl will hold the puree or chopped food as it travels the long trek up to your child’s mouth, but the child may not be able to clean the spoon with his top lip as easily.

Some spoons come with holes in the bowl to allow liquid to drain and solids to stick to the bowl. Other spoons have textured bowls for those children who need the added tactile input to their mouths in order to tell where the spoon is about to dump the food. Some spoons come with bendable “necks” where the handle and the bowl meet, so that parents can adjust the angle of the neck to facilitate better hand to mouth coordination.

Provide extra traction beneath the slippery bowl with a sheet of shelf liner (see Chapter 1) or use a suction cup bowl. Suction cup bowls that are deep with high sides are ideal, especially if filled with non-slippery foods such as cottage cheese, oatmeal or chopped, room temperature macaroni and cheese.

I am not sure which is messier — independent spoon feeding or independent finger feeding! A washable mat under the high chair tray is a must. Finger feeding is the perfect opportunity for your little foodie to begin to develop his pincer grasp, where he engages his thumb and forefinger to pick up pea-sized foods, such as halved blueberries and cheerios.

At about six months, your child will begin to rake up objects by using his whole hand and curling all four fingers around the desired item. Letting go of the food can be tricky.  You may see your child use his mouth to grab the food while he fists it in between his little fingers.

Slowly, between seven and nine months, the pincer grasp will begin to emerge. This is also the time that children have enough trunk stability to sit in a high chair and focus on this new skill. Typically, by the end of the first year, the pincer grasp is perfected! At that time, you will see your child begin to pick up small pieces of food and place them in her mouth with more precision and thankfully, less mess.

Support the natural progression of finger feeding by offering soft or meltable foods first, such as a buttery cracker. It’s relatively easy to grasp and mouth until a soft, mushy piece falls into his mouth. Over time, he will develop his ability to grade his jaw movement and truly bite into the cracker in a controlled, even manner. As his skills improve, offer pea-sized pieces of soft and/or meltable foods that expose your child to a variety of tastes, safe temperatures and textures. Small chilly blueberries cut in half, warm, buttery pieces of pasta or tofu or cheerios spritzed with apple juice are all good starters.  See Chapter 15 for additional ideas.

To encourage pincer grasp development, try the following games with your favorite round cereal or pea-sized pieces of soft food:

1.    Using a plastic “shot glass” or similar sized narrow container (about two inches tall and just wide enough for your child’s thumb and forefinger), put a few pieces of cereal in the bottom and encourage him to get them out by reaching in and picking up the pieces using a pincer grasp.

2.    Take a round plastic coffee stirrer and thread three pieces of circular cereal on it. Hold it perpendicular to the high chair tray and let your child pull off the cereal one by one using his thumb and forefinger.

3.    When giving your child a piece of the cereal, hold it in your pincer grasp (with half sticking out and available for his little fingers to grab onto) as you move it toward his hand. Wait. Let him take it from your grasp before putting it in his mouth on his own.

As your child learns to feed himself with fingers and/or spoon:

·      Rejoice in the mess! It’s good for his sensory system and just part of the learning curve.

·      Position little fists near the bowl of the spoon.

·      Layer shelf liner under a small, deep plastic bowl or use a suction cup bowl.

·      Offer pea-sized soft and/or meltable foods to encourage pincer grasp.

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP is a certified speech language pathologist, a national speaker on the topic of picky eating, and the author of the award winning parenting book,  Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! With over 15 years’ experience treating children with feeding difficulties, Mel’s approach to developing feeding skills includes the fundamentals of parenting in the kitchen, such as how to avoid mealtime debates and creating more joyful mealtimes, even with a hesitant eater. Mel embraces her work with families with an open heart and a touch of humor.  After all, the journey to more adventurous eating should be celebrated each step of the way!  She has also produced the award winning children’s CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food as a tool to keep mealtimes joyful and family centered.  Connect with Melanie at My Munch Bug on facebook and twitter or email her at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.

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