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Why do we use the Eating Hierarchy in Feeding Therapy?

When it comes to trying new things, it’s common for everyone to be overwhelmed. This is also true when introducing new foods into a young child’s diet. In this blog we discuss the eating hierarchy, which is the foundation of feeding therapy.

What is the eating hierarchy?

The eating hierarchy is a play-based approach to introducing new foods. It starts with interacting with food on a preliminary level and working up to biting, chewing, then swallowing. The goal is to provide a multi-sensory experience with the goal of introducing different tastes, textures, and temperatures of food.

How does play-based eating work?

Kids learn through play and food is no exception to this rule.  As we know, taste and smell are closely related. If we smell food before tasting, it is another step to eliminating “unknown” and taking a bite. In addition, manipulating food with our hands can desensitize to different foods and provide support to trying new foods.  Let them explore and have fun in the best way they know how!

What are the steps?

Follow the simplification of steps below when trialing a new food! 

  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Kiss
  • Lick
  • Bite
  • Chew/Swallow

Written by: Kimberly Dekoski, MOT, OTR/L

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