Feeding playgroups help improve children’s relationship with food

Many children experience challenges when trying new foods. Some children’s reactions to new foods can include gagging, coughing, and sometimes even vomiting. Parents and families may not know that there are programs designed specifically for children with feeding difficulties.

Over the past year, Southwest Human Development has hosted specialized parent-child feeding playgroups. These groups run for 8-10 weeks and are held at Southwest Human Development’s ADAPT Shop in Phoenix. The sessions, which last an hour-and-a-half, incorporate parent education, peer socialization, gross motor activities, sensory exploration, oral motor play and, of course, mealtime!

Children ages 2-5 years can participate in the feeding playgroups. Some children have extremely limited diets, while others may have delays in their oral motor skills. Many children with feeding tubes have attended the groups as well. No matter what the feeding concerns are, throughout the course of the group, all children learn to explore food in a fun and encouraging environment, without the pressures or expectations of needing to eat the food.

“It is important to us that parents are engaged in the feeding process just as much as the children,” says Amanda Waradzin, M.S.Ed., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist at Southwest Human Development’s Children’s Developmental Center. “We offer parent education during each group and have had great success with parents and caregivers encouraging their children to participate and interact with peers. We have even seen some families dive right in the sensory buckets with their children, even if that means they end up covered in Jell-O!”

Throughout the feeding playgroups, children have experienced notable progress and success when it comes to their feeding and socialization. Based on data from pre- and post-surveys completed by parents and families, 95 percent of families reported that they feel more confident during mealtimes with their child. Not only did the child’s relationships with food improve, but so did sensory aversions to textures and peer interactions.

“My favorite part for him was the socialization,” said one mother whose child successfully weaned from his g-tube during his time with Southwest Human Development. “He was able to have fun with a lot the sensory activities too.”

For more information about Southwest Human Development’s feeding playgroups, contact our Children’s Developmental Center team at (602) 468-3430 or coe@swhd.org.