Getting picky eaters to eat in the feeding clinic or in their own home can be challenging enough, when you add planning, preparing, cooking, cleaning and eating outdoors, you have another set of challenges! Here are a few tips for camping with a picky eater.
S’mores: Camping and s’mores go hand-in-hand, and kids love to make their own treat! Before they set their marshmallow on fire, start a conversation about texture. Do they want their marshmallow burnt and crispy (like I do) or soft and slightly toasted? Are they willing to try a unique “style” of s’mores? You can do this by using different marshmallow colors (white, pink, yellow) or sizes (mini, regular, jumbo). You can also exchange the traditional chocolate bar for another type of melt-able candy bar. I’ve even switched out the customary graham cracker for a gluten-free cookie! Give a few of these unique s’mores a try and you will have those picky dessert eaters singing around the campfire “…more s’mores!”
Snacks & Meals: Camp food can be fun for us, but a picky eater may have difficultly handling the novelty of camp cuisine. It is important to prep and pack some of their favorite to-go snacks as well as one ‘for sure’ meal for each day you are camping. Pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, hot dogs and PB&J are easy-to-prep meals that are common favorites for hesitant eaters. When trying new camping grub, try to keep meals on the same time schedule that you have at home in order to capitalize on their hunger sensation. And don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to cook, since cooking over the campfire or on a camp stove can take more time and patience.
Sensory: Going camping and being in the wild may challenge your picky eaters’ senses. The smell of burning wood, the taste of gooey marshmallows, the visual beauty of the outdoors, feeling the warmth of a cozy fire and hearing all of the different nature sounds can be overwhelming for some kids. Try to bring some of their favorite sensory friends like their beloved stuffed animal, headphones, preferred plate (like the Happy Mat), weighted blanket, favorite crunchy snack or a comfy outfit. A few of my clients have chosen to wear their Halloween superhero costumes to face the new encounters of camping life!
Storing: Make sure you clean and store your food safely to avoid food poisoning while camping. In addition, place all food in bear-proof containers or store them appropriately for the territory you are in. This will keep your picky eater’s favorite foods out of the hands (or paws!) of others.
Shifting Habits: Camping is a great way to introduce some novel feeding habits. Have your kids change up mealtime by having them cook! They can heat up hot dogs or marshmallows with roasting forks (they have multiple tongs to cook several items at once) or wrap potatoes with aluminum foil and toss them in the coals. Shift the habit of eating at the dining table by eating in your tent, on a log, at a picnic table or on a blanket on the ground. Change up the lighting by eating by flashlight, lantern or headlamp. Or, have bedtime snacks under the stars!
Making mealtime fun around the dinner table or the campfire is the first step in shifting their picky patterns. I’d love to hear what other suggestions you have to help our picky eaters succeed in their outdoor eating adventures! #ezpzfun #camping #pickyeater
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz