The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

toothpicks, tools and feeding

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Blog Posts | 11 comments

First of all, thank you to all my Face Book  followers and for all your well-wishes. I am healing from my appendectomy nicely. Who knew you could have recurrent appendicitis?? I should have paid attention to my complete lack of appetite with the episodes. That’s serious for me! :)

Anyway, I asked a question to the FB folks, which was, “what is your favorite feeding gadget or item that was a must-have?” From the Oralflo cup for pills to the segmented toddler plate, the one that stood out most was the toothpick. Reader “T” said, “Toothpicks! Because they make everything seem like you’re at a party :)”

In general, I shy away from making food entertaining to get kids to eat it. If it takes you thirty minutes to assemble a plate of fruit that looks like a clown, or a work of art, you are probably working too hard. But toothpicks are another story– here are a few anecdotes/tho0ughts around toothpicks…

1) My favorite, was eating chicken-noodle-soup with my 5 year-old and Ellyn Satter. M was having trouble with the lovely noodles (I don’t know if they were home-made, but the soup was delicious, the noodles thick and hearty. Ellyn walked over to a cupboard, retrieved a toothpick and handed it to M. She said something like, “Would you like to try a toothpick to get those noodles?” I had never tried this, and I watched curiously and without saying anything (tough for me not to say anything, but I have learned with feeding, that half the work is being quiet and observing what your child is doing and when possible to follow her lead.) Anyway, M grabbed it, and happily speared and consumed two bowls of noodles. Wish I had tried it earlier. As a tool, in this case it was a way to help M do it herself. Montessori fans will recognize “help me do it myself.” Any way to help a child have a sense of control or autonomy around her eating will generally help.

2) my birthday party, probably around age 7. My folks made a porcupine fruit monster. Half a water-melon with carrot legs, and a back full of fruit, mini-sausages (it was the late 70’s after all) grapes, etc. It was cute and a hit, fun for a special occasion.

3) Fruit kebabs. After a talk at a Denver WIC program, we visited a WIC site and tasting cafe. They had fruit on skewers and the kids all grabbed and gobbled them up. I’ve heard lots of parents say, “anything on a skewer!” It’s really just a long toothpick! Why not have kids help make the skewers, or just put out bowls of cut up fruit and give them toothpicks to skewer individually. (Be sure kids are old enough to handle them safely. Oh, and I imagine my friend K with her three boys might encourage a “no sword-fighting rule” or something of the sort…)

What do you think? have you used toothpicks or skewers? Are there other feeding tools you have used with success?

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  1. Jenny Islander

    Oh, I forgot about this! We don’t have a high chair, but we do have tile floors. When my middle child was a crawler, somebody gave me a mesh feeder. For those who haven’t seen one, this looks like some kind of teether, except that part of it is a very sturdy little mesh bag that snaps shut. I wish I had had it for my oldest as well! Just put something interesting in the feeder and hand it to the baby. Cooked carrot, chunks of banana, pieces of sauteed ground beef, apple slices, peach slices–I would just keep an eye on the baby to make sure that there was no furniture climbing, pick up the mesh feeder from wherever it was dropped when the baby lost interest, and do some minimal wiping up. What an excellent tool for low-pressure exploration of solid food. Plus it saves time cutting things up into little pieces or pureeing them for the baby. She will “puree” them herself with her awesome sucking power. Those slices of banana tended to vanish. Carrot? Nothing left but tiny fibers.

    • katja

      I really liked the Baby Safe Feeder (or other mesh feeder too) It helped with teething pain when we put frozen mango or peach slices in. It was also great at restaurants to pop a piece of avocado or apple into the bag so she could sit and we could have 5 minutes to eat! I think it’s a nice way to introduce flavors, work on gumming, chewing, can help some kids with sensory issues, but I do caution a few things. I have seen parents use it INSTEAD of advancing to real table foods when there is an overblown fear of choking. It is not a substitute for advancing to solids appropriately, but is a nice adjunct to healthy feeding. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Amy

    I rarely make food extra “fun,” but I recently made my girls’ lunches in a 6-cup muffin tin. I put little snacky things in each cup: cherry tomatoes, sandwich wrap; cucumber slices, cottage cheese, crackers. It made the rainy day much brighter and my girls were thrilled!! It was like a mini picnic or (un)cupcake bento box.

  3. Jenny Islander

    A moms’ group I belong to has a lot of moms of picky eaters. Many of them swear by bento. They say that their kids will turn their noses up at something in the morning, but eat it eagerly for lunch if it’s cut into shapes and arranged to look like a panda’s face.

    • katja

      I wonder if they would eat it from the box without all the effort? Just wondering. Would be an interesting experiment. Seems like so much work, but if it works for their families and they are happy with it, then go for it… Many of the problem eaters I work with find all that effort to feel like pressure and it actually turns them off…

      • Jenny Islander

        They don’t generally do the fancy kyaraben that get featured in articles about bento. A set of tiny cutters that do flowers, circles, semicircles, triangles, etc., will work for ham, cheese, sliced cucumbers, etc. Arrange some on a layer of rice, add a couple of strawberries or tiny tomatoes, and voila, there’s your bento.

        It seems to work best for the kids who balk at having big sheets or chunks of food presented to them. The same food cut into small manageable pieces of a pleasing shape is more appealing. The same effect without rice can come from cutting a roll-up sandwich into finger-sized pieces and arranging it in the box with small fruits or pieces of fruit, tiny pickles, the classic frankfurter-cut-into-an-octopus, etc. Or use mini-muffins. There are even molds that can be used to press a peeled hard-cooked egg into a different shape.

        Japanese cookery does emphasize “eating with the eyes,” so making bento is a logical offshoot.

        • Jenny Islander

          Sorry, to clarify, their panda-face bento are composed of a few simple shapes, unlike the stunning character bento that win awards. It’s still art, but it’s ASCII art.

  4. katja

    I don’t do much with skewers either, as we don’t have many issues, but I agree, would be fun! Maybe we’ll do the Skewer fruit monster for her next birthday!

  5. Heidi

    I haven’t tried toothpicks or skewers but it’s a great idea – my son generally doesn’t have eating issues (thank goodness – I’ve been terrified that I’d pass on my disordered eating to him, and have worked SO hard to avoid that) but he does love doing creative stuff and I can see making fruit kebabs, or similar, as something he’d really enjoy.

  6. Gretchen

    Glad you are feeling better. And I cannot wait until my children are old enough for toothpicks! At their ages (2.5 yrs and 18 months), I suspect it’s a bit risky yet!