How to make it easier for your child to eat
I recently completed SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) training to learn how to help more extreme picky eaters. One main takeaway from the course was just how many factors can affect a child’s eating. – including their chair! In this blog, I’ll review why this is so important, the best high chairs and how to modify yours to make it more supportive.
One third to 1/2 of children have trouble eating. And it’s not simple – there are seven areas of human function that need to be assessed for picky eaters.
And the first step to supporting babies, toddler and children in eating seems simple. But is often overlooked and can make a HUGE difference!
The first step to making it easier to eat, is your child’s chair
Proper support not only makes your child far more comfortable in their seat but also makes it much easier to eat. It allows for better hand to mouth coordination and more effortless chewing and swallowing. It’s also safer for your baby to be stable in their high chair, to prevent choking.
A good chair also can also improve your child’s behaviour at mealtime if they have a comfortable seat. If your little one cries and whines every time they’re in their chair, maybe it’s uncomfortable.
Try sitting on a high bar stool with no back rest or foot support and you can see how it becomes harder to eat -even for a seasoned adult!
For proper alignment, you want to think about a 90/90/90 angle to your child’s hips, knees and ankles.
A footrest is very important and will increase stability a ton. If your child’s feet are swinging back and forth that can be a distraction. And it’s also much harder to stabalize the body to pick up food, get it to the mouth, chew and swallow.
And the tray or table should come between the nipple and belly button. With your child sitting far enough forward in their seat to easily grasp the food and still have a supported back with the 90-degree bend at their waist and at their knees.
The best high chairs
I love adjustable wooden chairs like the Stokke Tripp Trapp. I had some knock offs over the years called Hipposmile and Keekaroo that you might be able to find second hand (set an alert for Kijiji!). You can adjust the footrest and chair as your child grows and use them well into elementary school age.
I also like that you can pull these chairs right up to the table, so your child is a part of the family meal. And your child can push food farther away from them if they don’t want it (compared to on a tray), to make them feel more comfortable.
How do I make my high chair more stable?
Clip-on high chairs are popular, especially for small spaces. But they leave your baby’s feet dangling. So to fix this, support your baby’s feet with a stool or a large box.
For other high chairs that are too large or don’t have a footrest use sturdy boxes or yoga blocks, rolled up towels or pieces of a pool noodle + duct tape to get creative. Fill a box with scrap paper so it’s solid, tape it up (wipeable!) and place it under your child’s feet for example. The rolled towels or blocks may need to go behind your child or beside them,
If the seat of the chair is slippery, a non-slip matt like counter liner can be used to sit on and keep your kiddo in place.
The high chair photo I’ve included in this blog could use some extra modifications. While the 90/90/90 angle looks not too bad, the tray needs to come lower. I can’t see if there is a proper footrest. If not, you can either create your own or order one online to attach to your high chair. And the child could be better supported/less squirmy if some yoga blocks were placed on either side of her.
I’ve recently updated my “End Picky Eating’ course to integrate some of these new ideas to help your picky eater. Click here to learn more.