Using Caring Language at Mealtime
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
We are launching our ezpz Care Bear Mats this month and talking a lot about caring – which has been the Care Bear theme for 35 years! I am excited about this product line and the joy these mats will create at mealtime. In addition, I am hopeful that the nostalgia of Care Bears will be a sweet reminder to bring ‘caring words’ to mealtime. The language that parents, therapists and siblings use at the dinner table can positively or negatively impact a hesitant eater to take a bite or refuse the entire meal. Here are some tips to encourage caring language at the table even during stressful mealtimes.
Communication: If you have ever had a meal with a child, you find out quickly that ineffective communication leads to a power struggle at mealtime. It can be difficult for parents to find the right style / language with hesitant eaters that encourages self-expression but also supports rules at the table. I find that being consistent and respectful while providing choices with clear limits wins the picky eating game every time!
Here is an example of a statement made from a mom:
“Why won’t you eat the noodles? You love noodles. I don’t know what to do when you won’t eat your dinner and I know you are hungry!”
Here is a way to change her communication style:
“You had Mac & Cheese last night for dinner, so you can choose between noodles or chicken tonight.”
Caring Language: The language we use at mealtime can encourage or discourage kids to try a bite of a new food. We talk about this in our book Making Mealtime ezpz and provide examples on how to use encouraging expressions to nudge kids to explore new foods. This also implies that we are not judging their personal conclusions about the food they just explored and tasted. We need to respect that their emerging taste buds are different than our mature ones.
Here are some examples of language that is oftentimes used:
“You can’t say you don’t like it” or “You barely licked it, so how can you hate it?”
These statements can crush a child’s willingness to try something new with you in the future. Try a caring language approach:
“You should be so proud that you were willing to taste it!”
This statement is considerate and supportive. Remember, the goal is to get your child to be willing to try new foods with you again. If we accomplish that, then we start a positive momentum on trying new tastes, textures, food and eventually entire meals!
Care Bears: Have you seen ezpz's new Care Bear Mats + Bowls? They are adorable and have their own special personalities. You can teach your kids about each character and tie back the personality traits to mealtime lessons!
Share is her name, and sharing is her game! Share Bear is a nurturing and generous bear, and she is happiest when she’s giving or baking. Carefree and loving, Share thinks sharing is such a treat, and she shows it with her belly badge – two heart-shaped lollipops!
Mealtime Lesson: Share family meals! Trying new foods together as a family will influence what your children eat. The phrase “sharing is caring” is especially true around the dinner table. But this goes BOTH ways. Johnny may be more willing to try broccoli if you are ready to eat a few bites of his dino-nugget!
Nothing makes Funshine happier than hanging with friends or going on adventures. He makes the most of his days with fearlessness and sunny optimism. Funshine's belly badge reflects this spirit - a smiling, blazing yellow sun!
Mealtime Lesson: Have fun at mealtime! Making food fun is critical to success with a picky eater. Using fun feeding products like the ezpz Care Bear Mats and adding cookie cutters, lollipop sticks and candy eyes will help your child become fearless with food!
Wish Bear helps make wishes come true, and although they don't always come true, making wishes and trying your best is still fun.
Mealtime Lesson: Wishful thinking can lead to eating! Finding a few foods your child is interested in trying (even if they are not your favorite choices) and exploring them together can be a wish come true for a hesitant eater! When we encourage kids to have a positive + wishful outlook at mealtime, while teaching them the mechanics of eating a new food (how to chew and swallow it), we may be surprised by all the foods they are willing to try!
Changing our language and using the Care Bears mats are sure to help your little one be more adventurous with new tastes at mealtime. Join team ezpz in spreading happiness, caring language and positive mealtime lessons! #ezpzfun #CareBears #YearOfTheHug
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).