by Tracy our Play Specialist

We learn everything through our senses. This includes seeing, hearing, movement, touch, pressure, taste, temperature and smell. The sensory environment plays a major role at meal times, this includes the room in which we feed a child, the reactions of those people around us when we eat, and the sensations of taste, texture and temperature of the food including the feeding utensils used.

A child with short bowel syndrome has often been hospitalised for a long period of time. Due to their medical condition, TPN/PN/Nasal Gastric Feeds are often the methods used to provide these children with the nutritional requirements they need, prior to the gradual introduction of what may be a limited/restricted diet.

Finger Painting

The transition to oral food may be a little difficult for these children. A child with short bowel syndrome can often be quite sensitive to touch/texture and dislike  their hands “being messy”. They may also show sensitivity to smells, temperature and taste of food and like many children, to the moods and emotions of their parents/carers/persons who feed them.

To address a child`s oral sensitiveness, you could start with touch and texture on the body “MESSY PLAY”. Messy play helps them to get used to new textures, smells etc in a relaxed, fun way without pressure to eat or taste. Your child may find some textures like play dough difficult so begin with textures they are happy to touch. Various textured materials such as fur, cotton cloth, netting, foam, sponge, tooth brush bristles, and cotton wool can all be used to help de-sensitize. For bays peek a boo games with textured fabrics or for toddlers feely boxes containing various textured objects can be a good introduction to messy play. The gradual introduction to dry ingredients such as rice, flour, cereals, dry lentils, custard powder etc ( use ingredients as advised by childs dietician if following a restricted diet) , can all be used before gradual progression to more wet/messy consistencies such as Jelly, rice pudding, wet baby rice, etc, allowing your child to gain confidence with food textures, smells and eventually tastes as they touch their lips with the foods from their fingers.

It is important during these messy play times that they are FUN. Prepare an area that can be cleaned easily and have water/ wipes and towels at hand. If your child is aware that the adult carrying out the play session with them is worried about  “the mess”  or them themselves show a reluctance to join in the messy play, they to will find the session difficult/stressful therefore the objectives of helping your child overcome their sensitivities will not be achieved.

A child who is more comfortable with textures on the skin, often will become more daring to try new foods and tastes, a relaxed and happy environment can reduce stress therefore also help a child with sensitivities to become more confident around food.

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Tracy Warburton NNEB/BTEC Hospital Play Specialism