Monday, May 18, 2020

'Play With Your Food' - how to eat healthy

By Ed Piper

Sarah Appleman
, part of the Viking family as a wrestling mom, has published a book that seeks to help Special Needs kids with their eating habits, to make them a little bit healthier.

"The book is about helping picky eaters improve their food repertoire by participating in fun-filled therapeutic activities relative to the food they are about to eat," said Appleman, who has been a pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT) for 20 years.

What's even more fun, as you picture the food flying and goo all over, as I as a former daycare and public school teacher who taught and teaches all ages do, is this:

"A lot of local kids took part in the activity and enjoyed the process," said Appleman.

The volume, titled Play With Your Food, is available on Amazon, according to the author.

I taught daycare/preschool for four years, from 1981-1985, in my hometown of Camarillo, in Ventura County. Under the able and wise guidance of Myrna Shadley, our school director, who was also a close family friend and mentor of mine, we did activities like cookie dough playdough. Our young children, from ages 2 through kindergarten, were allowed to eat the tasty dough after playing with it in a supervised activity. (Not the younger ones, if it wasn't appropriate. I taught the older kids.)

It was a blast for them, and for us. My aide, Lisa Ellis, was the total bomb as far as being tuned in to caring about children. Even more helpful to me as the classroom teacher was the fact during the summer program one year, Lisa basically originated and led almost all of our craft lessons. Did she have the idea for the cookie dough playdough? I'm not sure. I think the idea was popular among other teachers in our school. Also, I snatched a lot of lesson ideas from the child development and teaching courses I was required to take as part of my employment (though I had already earned a teaching credential for secondary education, grades 6-12).

My experience with the edible dough was that, at first, our children were hesitant to go ahead and eat the dough. Are you sure? was the look they gave us staff members. (This was, of course, after everyone was directed in washing their hands thoroughly before the activity.)

The goal, if you're asking: To get kids who may normally be reticent to touch, taste, feel, and explore, to venture out and--appropriately--experience things like texture and temperature in a way they haven't done before.

I confess, we had young children in our multi-classroom daycare facility (not my room) who tried to pick up things off the floor and eat them. We had a variety of cultures represented in our student population, in addition to U.S.-born kids. There was quite a mix, of Korean-born, India-born, and several others.

We, of course, stopped the floor-eaters from carrying through. That's just good sense, sanitation, and wise health habits.

On the other hand, here we were implementing a directed lesson plan that centered around playing with food with their hands (the dough), then eating it at the end of the lesson. Funny, huh? But very good for our young people, who in many cases had been trained at home to refrain from touching things, reaching out, "getting their hands into" whatever Mom or Dad had sitting out in the house. You can picture that--parents do it to try to keep their kids safe.

Our students soon became comfortable with playing and eating the edible dough. But we did it with structure. We impressed upon them that this was a special activity, and that in other lessons we might be playing with non-edible playdough and they weren't to eat that. Kids learn well what we teach them, then reinforce, so we didn't have problems with the same children gorging down on play materials that weren't intended for eating.

Which brings me back to Sarah Appleman, who reached out to me regarding her book. I don't know if any of this relates to her book, which I haven't seen. But my own teaching experience helps me understand where she as a trained OT may be going with the counsel in her new book.

In my extended family, there are a few picky eaters I can think of. Too bad we didn't have Sarah's book around years ago!

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