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Food is a Sensory Experience

Eating seems like a simple and straight forward process, right? Food goes in, chew, swallow and "Ta Da!" you've eaten. However, as with most 'simple' processes, the reality is a bit more complex.

Starting solids is a complex series of coordinated motor tasks as well as a brand new sensory experience. Eating bombards the senses - the tastes, smells, sights and sounds. It requires the strength, finesse, cooperation and coordination of a whole host of bodily systems. This all takes experience and practice. Be patient with your little one as they explore this new world of solid food.

Most children manage easily and are curious about new flavours and open to trying foods, presented in different ways (e.g., mushed carrot vs raw carrot sticks). For some children, it can be overwhelming. Going slowly and following your baby's cues is the way to go.

*Top Tip*

The first month after you start solids is about getting your baby used to the idea of eating food. Treat ‘eating food’ as a Sensory Learning Task (like you would Tummy Time). Let it be messy, have fun and don’t worry about nutrition or energy. It will take a little while before solid food becomes your child’s main source of energy.

Food is much more than just taste - have fun with your baby exploring the smell, sounds and textures of food. Let your child rub food in their hair or splatter it over their food tray. Try not to clean them as they go, mess is good - it helps them learn and explore.

Food is also how we celebrate life's important events, it's how we show love and how we connect with one another. Helping your child develop a healthy relationship with food starts right at the beginning.

Learning to eat solid foods takes time, so be patient. Your baby may only have one teaspoon of food when you start. Once your baby is more familiar and proficient with eating, you can focus more on nutrition and the 'what' of what they're eating.

Food is made to be enjoyed, have fun with it! Experiment with flavour combinations, laugh, be silly and enjoy this new phase in your baby's life.

References: Borowitz 2021; Monti 2005

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