hair pulling

Ask Miss Jaime OT: How do I stop my child from pulling/playing with hair at naptime?


Hair pulling during nap time…

Question from Jamie  in Naples, Florida:

“Hey Miss Jaime! Wondering if you have any sensory ideas to keep my daughters hands busy. She will be three in April.  She would always play with her hair when she was tired and during self soothing before bed, but it’s escalating to some pulling of her hair at school during nap time out of boredom I believe since she will no longer take naps. I suggested giving her books to read, but is there anything else you would recommend?”

Replace the behavior…

Thank you so much for taking the time to write in. Most children (and adults for that matter) have habits or self soothing behaviors that they find calming. Using her hands to play with her hair seems to be your daughter’s way of relaxing. Books are a good idea, but if your daughter is seeking sensory input, you may want to give her a tactile toy or blanket to replace the hair habit.   You could also try pulling her hair back for a while so there is nothing to play with (if it is long enough!)   Here are some cute tactile blankets and toys that might help.  I listed some “Taggies” products, but there are some popular fidgets and sensory products as well.  Good Luck!  I hope it helps!


*Affiliate Links

 Taggies Monkey Blanket



 Taggies Plush Toy, Cow


 Tactile Hand Fidget


 Pull and Stretch Ball 


 Stringy Play Ball


See-Me Sensory Balls


   Touchable Texture Square 


Slumbers Bedtime Bear



Happy Fidgeting!


~Miss Jaime, O.T.

* I am an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you click on something that I link and purchase it, I will receive a small commission.

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Ask An OT: “What pencil grip should I use for my child?”

Question from Dena Rich in  Albany, NYdena(1)


“Hi Miss Jaime!  Love, love your articles!!!! My daughter Emilia still struggles with her pencil grip (using whole hand instead of proper 2 fingers). I’m having trouble finding a pencil gripper. Do I have to go to a parent teacher store? Love the tweezer separating sprinkles idea. Do u think this will be too hard for her?  She turns five in March. “

Hi Dena!  Thanks for the compliment!  You don’t need to go to a teacher store; you can buy anything online!

Children who are four are often still developing a comfortable pencil grip.  It can be hard for children to develop separation of the two sides of the hand, but a pencil grip can help.  I usually try not to use a grip until I’m sure that the child is physically having difficulty.

That means that I have taught them many times where their fingers should go and where the pencil should sit in their hands.  When I ask them to hold the pencil correctly, they try to and they know what I mean.  The problem is that due to weak strength and endurance, they can’t maintain a proper grasp.  So then, I use a pencil grip.  My favorite “go-to” grip for preschoolers is called “the pencil grip”.  I like it because it’s “fatter” towards the back which helps kids to open up their web space.  This is the area between the thumb and the index finger.    There are specific spots for each finger, but even if they hold it wrong, it’s still ok.   Here is what it looks like.

Another good one that I like for kids Emilia’s age is the “writing claw”.  This one can be a little tricky to learn how to use, but once a child gets the hang of it, it’s great.  There are spots for the thumb, index and middle fingers.


Pencil grips can be uncomfortable for children at first.  That’s ok, it’s uncomfortable because the child is now using the correct muscles, and they aren’t used to doing this work.  Keep encouraging them and use it consistently.  It will pay off!   Also, you can help your child to “tuck in” the ring and pinky finger by having them hold a pom pom or a cotton ball in those fingers.  It helps to keep the pinky side of the hand separate from the thumb part.

Another way to make it easier for your child is to play games and work with toys that require separation of the two sides of their hands.  Classic games like  Bed Bugs, Lite Brite, Operation, etc. are examples of toys that encourage this.

Good Luck, Dena!  Keep us posted!


  ~Miss Jaime

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Miss Jaime OT pencil grip

Ask An OT: How to desensitize a child’s skin…


Ask Miss Jaime OT!

~from Theresa Allender in Seattle, Washington:

How to  Desensitize Skin…

“My four year old has a super sensitive body. She is uncomfortable with kisses and hugs, she will only wear certain clothes because of how they feel, she is the same about shoes, it’s uncomfortable for her to have her head washed, etc. I was wondering if I could desensitize her to make her more comfortable in her skin.

Also, is this hypersensitive body related to her inability to hear others around her sometimes? For example it seems like she is blocking people out on purpose but she is genuinely startled to be tapped on the shoulder or yelled at for not responding.”


Thanks for writing in Theresa!  It sounds like your daughter has tactile and auditory hypersensitivity.  Sensory processing difficulties are very difficult to pinpoint without an assessment.  Even with an assessment, many children’s sensory issues change from morning to night, day to day, or season to season. What bothers them one day may not bother them the next.  Your daughter sounds pretty consistent, which may be helpful in figuring out how to help her.   In terms of “desensitizing” her, you could try massage.  A friend of mine is a Massage Therapist and she happens to work with children.  She says that gentle massage every night after a bath would really help the desensitization process.    You know what your daughter can tolerate, but start slow and gentle with some lotion.  She said that one very important thing is to decrease the time significantly for a child.  Start with five to ten minutes if she can tolerate it and then try to increase it.  But even 20 to 30 minutes total is a great accomplishment and will help to start the desensitization process.  You could try some lavender or pleasant smelling lotion if you think she would like it. If not, go plain.  If you already do this, systematically make your massage a little longer.  Then you can try pressing more firmly, etc.  If she has very sensitive spots, avoid them.  After you brush her hair, you could gently massage her scalp while you talk to her.   If the massage becomes ok, you can “step it up” by using a soft washcloth for the massage, or follow up the lotion with a “drying” massage with a towel or soft cloth.

Pediatric massage can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and improve aversion to touch.  It’s also great for improving the parent/child bond.

As for the second part of your question, children who are hypersensitive to auditory stimuli may appear not to hear you because they don’t hear you.  Children who have auditory hypersensitivity will hear every little thing around them, which may limit them from hearing something closer.  Leaves blowing outside, the sirens blowing two blocks away, or the hum of the air conditioner are competing with the voice of Mom.  All of these background noises can be hard for a child with auditory hypersensitivity to “tune out”.  This means that these background noises may be equal or more pronounced than closer noises like mom calling her name.   So it makes it hard for her to respond at times.  Often children learn how to self-modulate so that they can “tune out” the background stuff.  If it’s really impacting her, you could consider a “Therapeutic Listening” program.   You would need to find a therapist who is certified in it, but it seems pretty cool.  Check out this link for more info:

or you could look at this You Tube Video to get an idea of what it’s all about: 

Thanks for taking the time to “Ask an OT”!  If my readers have any other advice for Theresa & her beautiful daughter Maya, please comment!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!

~  Miss Jaime, OT

If you have a question for Miss Jaime, O.T., please leave a comment on this page or go to “About Me” and leave your question.   Thanks!

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The “Real” Reasons Your Kid Can’t Tie Yet!


There is so much going on in the news in regards to education these days.  The Common Core Craze has changed the way teachers teach and Kindergarten is the new second grade.  That said, there are many things that teachers are teaching that are not remotely on our politicians radar.  Manners, character, and self care skills are just a few.  However, the list is endless.

Anyway, learning how to tie your own shoes is a rite of passage that turns your child into a “big girl” or a “big boy”.  Think back to when you were little and you learned how to tie.  I would bet that your parents or older sibling taught you how to tie.  It takes practice and a certain amount of motivation.  Both the adult and the child need to be motivated in order for the child to learn the skill.  The adult is usually motivated to get the child to tie for themselves so A) they aren’t tripping on their laces and B) so there is one less thing for the grown up to do.  The child is usually motivated to tie because they are excited to be a “big kid”.

When are children ready to tie?

Some children are ready to tie before they even start kindergarten.  Many are ready to learn in their kindergarten year.  Keep in mind this means children who are four and a half and five years old.  It always concerns me when I see a third grader in the halls with untied shoes and when I ask them to tie their shoes for safety, they end up telling me that no one ever showed them how.  It’s easy to buy slip on shoes and Velcro, but kids still need to learn how to tie.  I think sometimes it simply slips parents minds that they need to teach this skill, just like zipping, wiping and washing hands in the bathroom and using a fork and spoon.  Life is hectic and busy, but before you know it you have a ten year old who can’t tie.  Uh-oh!

Of course, some children have motor or learning difficulties that interfere with their ability to easily acquire this skill.  When this is the case, an Occupational Therapist may be the one who ends up teaching them, which is totally appropriate.  If you have a child that receives OT and you are concerned about their ability to perform self care skills, definitely let the OT know.  You may think that the OT should automatically know this or look at this, but the truth is that school based OTs are really supposed to work on skills that directly impact a child’s education.  Not just handwriting (MYTH!) but copying from the board, visual processing, motor coordination, using two hands to manipulate school tools and many other things that affect a child’s ability to learn the curriculum.

I’ve had parents ask me to work on riding a bike, because their child can’t ride with the family or the kids in the neighborhood.  That stinks! An OT will absolutely know how to teach a child to ride a bike, because it’s all about balance, coordination and motor planning.  However, riding a bike has nothing to do with school.  I always feel bad when I explain this to a parent.  I can work on motor planning, coordination and balance, but bicycles are on the other side of the line.

Untied shoes can be a safety issue for a child with special needs.  Shoe-tying is a self care skill and that is school appropriate. So children who have motor or learning difficulties may end up learning how to tie at school.   Everyone else will (hopefully) learn at home.  I think I’ve taught at least a hundred kids to tie over the years.  And I’ve found that there are a few simple reasons why it’s so hard for some kids to tie.

Postural stability

Children who are low tone or have weak core muscles have a very hard time holding their trunk upright and managing the steps to tie. Even children who are simply young have trouble with this.  It’s just too many things to conquer.  You may notice that your child will use one hand to kind of hold themselves up.  This obviously interferes with the ability to tie because they need to manage both laces.

The easiest way to fix this problem is to have the child sit with their back against a wall or something flat.  Try to get them to put their bottom all the way to the back of the wall. Kids often round their backs and scoot their bottoms forward, which provides less support.


Notice how she is propped against the cabinet and her left leg is tucked out of the way


So now the child is seated with their back against a wall.  What next?  Have you ever tried to do that thing where you tap your head and rub your belly at the same time?  This takes a lot of motor planning and the ability to do different things with different body parts at the same time.  Tough Stuff.  So the next tricky thing is getting the child’s body in a position that makes it easy to manage reaching their feet.   We already took care of their trunk by propping it against the wall.  Now we need to get their legs in a good position.  Decide what shoe you want to tie.  Then tuck the other leg underneath and out of the way.  Bend the knee of the tying foot up towards the chin.  The hard part here will be getting the knee to stay there.  I sometimes tell my kids that they should rest their chin on that knee.  It helps keep it in place.  For kids who are a little chunky, the knee usually falls to the side.  This also happens to kids who are low tone.  The only problem with this is that now, the bow will be on the Inside of the foot, instead of the Middle of the foot on top of the tongue.  Although this isn’t the biggest problem in the world, it’s harder to tie because the laces aren’t the same length anymore. Also, the laces will probably dangle on the inside of the foot, making it more likely that the child will trip on them or step on them. So get that knee under the chin.


Having the child place the chin on the knee keeps the leg and the bow nice and straight.

Bilateral Coordination

Some children still don’t have great bilateral coordination at the age of 5. Bilateral coordination is the ability to use two sides of your body at once. Sometimes it is hard for a child to keep their first hand holding the loop while the second hand does the next step.  I always tell the child “you have to hold onto the bunny, or he will hop away!”  As I said before, sometimes a child will take that hand away and lean on it, using it as a support.  That goes back to the postural control and positioning.  It can be hard to tell why they are taking that first hand away (difficulty with using two hands at once?  or the need to hold themselves up?) but if you get them against a wall in the right position, you may eliminate that urge to take the hand off the loop and put it behind them.

 The Laces

Length -Children’s laces should be the right length, of course.  But  very often they aren’t.  At least they aren’t the right length for a kid who is learning how to tie.  The  laces should be long enough to give the child some leeway as they are learning.  But they can’t be too long or it becomes a big mess AND they will trip on them even after they are tied.  So what is the perfect lace length?  It depends on the size of the shoe, but I recommend that the  laces should be between 11-13 inches long from the tongue (after the shoes are laced).  The Dollar Tree sells packs of laces for a dollar in all different sizes.  If your laces are too short or too long, you really should get a new pair of laces.  It makes a world of difference.  For some reason, kids want to hold the first loop or “bunny ear” with their whole fist, instead of pinching it with their two fingers.  If the laces are too short, they disappear in that little hand.  You need laces that are long enough to work with.

Texture – Now this may seem ridiculous, but it’s really true.  Some of the new funky sneakers come with cool laces that are just too silky!  They are usually round, too.   I prefer the plain old flat cotton laces. They tie easily and they stay tied.  The silky ones tie, but because of their round shape and silky texture, they come united right away.  Little kids usually don’t have great hand strength to tie the final bow super tight.  Those silky laces are like Houdini.  Out of that knot in a few minutes.

Visual Attention 

For some children, half the battle is getting their eyes to look at what they are doing.  For children with very poor visual attention, I recommend teaching one step at a time.  I find that children who are motivated and feeling successful do much better with keeping their eyes on what they are doing. By teaching only step one over and over a few times, the child learns it and then feels successful.  Feeling like something is achievable or within their reach makes it more enticing and may help with the visual focus a bit.

Visual Perception

Some OT catalogs sell toys, books, and other gadgets with laces that are two colors.  This is great for kids whop rely heavily on visual feedback.  I really prefer to teach kids to tie on their foot though.  Otherwise you end up teaching them twice.


Just one of the many tools out there with different colored laces….

If your child has difficulty with left/right or spatial concepts such as over/under, it may help to use different colored laces.  Buy two colors that are the same length.  Then cut them both in half and tie them back together with the opposite color.  Lace the shoe so the knot is at the bottom in between the first two holes.  Now when you are helping your child you can say, “the pink lace” rather than left, right, this one, that one, etc.  It just takes away one more obstacle.

Sequencing and Motor Planning

Sometimes the real problem is remembering the steps.  I like to use a story or a poem to help the child because it helps them to remember what happens next.  I prefer to use the one loop method but you can teach it however you like.  There are so many different versions of how to teach it but if you get their body in a good supported position with the other leg out of the way, you are halfway there.

I use the bunny and the snake story. First you make the letter X.  I teach the child to make the X on the shoe, not in the air, because it is more work to hold the two laces up and manipulate them than to leave them down.  Then I help the child find the lace on top.  (This is where the two colors come in handy).  The lace that is on top goes underneath and into the middle. If you tied it correctly, it should look like a piece of twisty macaroni.


Now the child has to make a loop.  This is the bunny, who sits on “macaroni hill”.   I always talk to kids about how bunnies hop on the ground, so it’s important that he doesn’t look like a flying balloon. “Bunnies don’t fly!” Don’t forget to give the bunny a nice long tail.  The other lace is the snake.  Depending on the child, you can make the snake mean and hungry (you can guess the end) or nice.  I like to have a snake in the story because I can tell the child that the end of the lace (the plastic part) is the snake’s face.  This helps them remember that they need to work with the snake’s belly, not his face, in the middle of the story.  “He might bite you!  Don’t touch his face.  Be Careful!”

The snake decides to sneak up behind the bunny.  This part of the story helps a child to remember where the lace needs to go.  “You would never walk in front of the bunny if you were trying to be sneaky…”  Then the snake loops around and hides his face in the forest.  This is the hard part for a lot of kids.  They keep wanting to pick up the end of the lace. “Watch out!  He’ll bite you.  Not his face, grab his belly!”

The snake pushes his belly through the hole that he made when he walked around.  I tell the child  to “pinch the snakes belly”.  The other hand hops to the top of the bunny ear and then both hands pull.  You can have the snake hug the bunny and invite him to lunch (awww) or eat the bunny for lunch (ewww).  You will know what your child will like and remember.

20150123_163925 (1)

It doesn’t matter what story or method you use.  But having a story with steps that help a child to sequence and motor plan their movements  really helps.

I really hope these insights will help you to help your child to tie!  Please comment and tell us if you have any other good tips! Good Luck!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Miss Jaime, OT


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sensory processing, hyperactivity, food dyes

Are Food Dyes Making Your Child Hyper?

Many people are busy following through on their resolutions at this time of the year, and MANY of those resolutions involve getting healthy, eating well, and exercising.  Parents nowadays are often struggling to find the balance between making sure their children get nutritious meals and finding the time (and money) to create those healthy non-processed delights.

The Trend

Health trends change all the time, but it seems like the drive toward non-processed and organic foods is here to stay. Specialty stores like Whole Foods, Fairway and Trader Joes are flourishing all over Long Island.  Many parents with children with special needs are aware of all the research out there in regards to limiting sugar, going gluten free, and even decreasing dairy.  However, a topic that is on my mind right now is Food Dyes and their effect on Hyperactivity.

This blog post is based on my opinion and my research and is not meant to take the place of an important conversation with your family  physician if you have concerns about your child’s dietary needs.  But, I found a few articles that I thought were very interesting and I decided to share my findings to give you some info and/or food for thought.

Many parents are willing to try anything rather than put their child on a daily medication.  Who could blame them?!  There are side effects and long term implications that would scare anyone.  Unfortunately, sometimes a child’s hyperactivity and distractibility can severely limit their ability to participate in their daily classwork and then Mom and Dad are faced with a tough decision.   There are other alternatives, including counseling, supplements, and biofeedback.  But what if just changing the food that you serve your child could help them have a more productive school day?  Wouldn’t that be awesome?


The Feingold Diet

So…. here is the skinny on the food dye and hyperactivity controversy.    In the 1970’s the “Feingold Diet” became a very popular diet for kids with hyperactivity.  Dr. Ben Feingold, an allergist, wrote a book called “Why Your Child is Hyperactive” which ended up becoming a bestseller.  Dr. Feingold died in 1982, but the controversy about his ideas regarding hyperactivity and diet are still very real.  Some parents swear by the diet; reporting improved sleep, decreased aggression,  and increased attention in their ADHD child.   Feingold’s diet eliminates synthetic food dyes, artificial flavors, and some preservatives.  It is definitely a big commitment for parents who decide to go that route.  Today, the Feingold Association is a support group for parents to help children with ADHD through dietary changes.  If you decide to try it, you definitely need to do your research.  Even medication can have artificial coloring!  The website is a wealth of information about how to start eliminating synthetic food dyes, preservatives, and artificial coloring from your child’s diet.

Studies for and against the Feingold Diet have popped up.   In the early 1990’s studies in medical journals reported  that food sensitivities are a responsible for over 70 percent of ADHD symptoms.  But, food allergies often develop slowly, so the correlation may bot be obvious right away to a parent.    In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that food coloring may exacerbate certain symptoms of  ADHD in some children. But, the FDA says that it doesn’t affect enough of the population to do anything about it.  But does it affect your kid?  The FDA apparently puts the synthetic food coloring additives through a tough process to ensure that the coloring is safe.  Each batch is tested for contaminants such as lead when they are produced.  LEAD!  That sounds weird to me! Why would lead be in my food?

Because synthetic food dyes are actually made from petroleum.  Okay, in fairness, it’s not petroleum like we get at the gas station, but still!  That statement right there makes me want to be more careful about food dyes and artificial coloring.  Gross!

There are nine FDA approved synthetic color addiditives that are used in our food in the US. However, these three make of the majority of the food coloring in our food: Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.  Other dyes to avoid are Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, and Red 3. In the 1970’s Red 2 was found to be a potential carcinogen and is no longer allowed in the USA.


More Recent Studies

Last year, a study at Oregon Health and science University in Portland found that the link between food dyes and increased ADHD symptoms in children affected 8 percent of those diagnosed.  That means that hundreds of thousands of the 5.9 million American children that are diagnosed with ADHD could be helped by eliminating synthetic dyes from their diet.  Isn’t that  amazing?

Feingold was an allergist.  He detected that these “hidden” food allergies were causing kids to have poor behavior and attention, sleep patterns and more.  When you think about how many children have severe allergies nowadays compared to twenty years ago, it only makes sense!  Something has changed to cause this.  Why are kids so prone to allergies?  And if they are, could something simple like food dyes be impacting their health without your knowledge?

What’s even more amazing (and annoying if you ask me) is the fact that the FDA does not require food labels to be complete!  The Feingold Association also recommends eliminating artificial flavors (even vanilla), artificial sweeteners like  aspartame (Equal & Splenda) and preservatives (BHA, BHT, and TBHQ).

So how are you supposed to eliminate these offenders when they may not even be labeled properly?  Hmm.  Apparently, to be an approved food for the Feingold Association, manufacturers need to fill out a ton of paperwork about everything in their foods.   Doesn’t it seem like all food manufacturers should have to go through this process? I mean, do we even know what we are eating?


Warning: Conspiracy Theory!

Since the 1950’s, the amount of food coloring in our US foods has increased by 5 times.  5 TIMES!  That’s crazy.  Want to hear something even more annoying?  Companies such as Kraft, Coca-cola, Walmart, and Mars have taken artificial coloring out of the products that they produce for the U.K., but have done nothing to change their products for America. Why?  Because European countries have banned food dyes.  A perfect example would be Fruit Loops, which have all 4 dyes that have been banned in Europe.  Still, Fruit Loops are exactly the same for us Americans.  I would love to see some statistics on hyperactivity and ADHD over there compared to here.   Hmm.   Most of the brightly colored snacks like Doritos, Skittles, and Mac and cheese are pretty obvious.  But,  even “healthy” snacks  often contain food dyes.  So that means that parents who are trying to feed their kids common “healthy snacks” are actually unintentionally giving them food dyes.  Even Yoplait yogurt and fiber one bars are guilty of it.  Oh, did I mention that many of the countries whose government banned food dyes also have governments which provide health care?  So, the European government stands to lose money if their people get sick from food dyes.  The U.S. Government actually makes money when Americans are sick.  Hmm again.

Feingold was an allergist.  He detected that these “hidden” food allergies were causing kids to have poor behavior and attention, sleep patterns and more.  When you think about how many children have severe allergies nowadays compared to twenty years ago, it only makes sense!  Something has changed to cause this.  Why are kids so prone to allergies?  And if they are an “allergy-sensitive” kid, could something simple like food dyes be impacting their health without your knowledge?

I hope this blog was an eye-opener for many parents.  It certainly was for me!   I’m thinking that if I want to stick with my own personal resolution of being healthier and eating less processed, artificial foods, I need to re-vamp my pantry!  Sorry for my random theories but when you blog, your thoughts are said out loud!   Again, this post is only meant to get your thinking.  If you have legitimate concerns for your child’s health, make an appointment to speak with your family doctor or allergist.


Armstrong, Thomas, Phd.  (1997). The Myth of the ADD Child. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam.

Stevens, Laura J.  (2000) 12 Effective Ways to Help your ADD/ADHD Child. New York, NY: Penguin Group Inc.

Barkley, Russell A. (2005). Taking charge of ADHD: Revised. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

~Miss Jaime, OT


Please comment if you have any other input for our readers!  I’d love to hear from you !


Positioning, Motor Skills & Table Manners – What’s the Connection?

positioning, and mealtime

Do Motor Skills and Positioning impact Table Manners? Absolutely!

Many children have a little difficulty with “table etiquette”.    Every family is different, and different cultures have different expectations of how a child should behave at the table.

But, putting all that aside, sometimes a child’s motor skills are the reason for their poor “table manners”.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience

FunctionalSkillsforKids (1)

This post is part of a 12-month series called Functional Skills for Kids written by  pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids.

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is the Mealtime, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related!

Positioning and Table Manners

Kids with poor postural control and weak core strength have trouble sitting up at the table without leaning on something for support.  This may cause them to sit all the way back in the chair, causing food to fall in their lap on the very long trip from the table to their mouth.  Or, they may lean all the way forward, so their belly is against the table, causing mom to say “sit up!”  But they can’t.  Not that they won’t try.  But it is the same thing as when your trainer tells you to hold the plank and not let your belly sink toward the floor.  It just goes.

positioning, and mealtime

 Furniture SIZE Affects Positioning 

As I mentioned in previous posts, grown up furniture is not meant for little people.  It is hard for them to reach, they can’t sit comfortably, and their bodies are just too little for our big dining room and kitchen furniture.  If they have difficulty with motor skills too, they are balancing all kinds of struggles.  Obviously, it makes no sense to buy small kitchen furniture.  However, be aware of the sizing of the chairs and tables when it comes to your kids.

A booster seat helps them to be sitting in the proper position to let their arms reach the table and for their feet to have a place to rest.   Even though your little one may feel “too grown up” for a booster seat, it’s important that they are in an appropriate position to learn how to eat properly.  Unfortunately, eating habits and table manners can be difficult to change.  For one thing, they are very used to doing something “their way” and getting satisfactory results (not hungry anymore).

under chair booster

I love the “Kaboost” booster from Amazon. It raises the kids up higher to the table without upsetting them that they are still in a Booster!

Also, if you do something a certain way multiple times a day every day, that becomes the way you do it.   If you have child-sized furniture (Miss Jaime is a BIG fan), let your kids eat a few meals there.  My best friend has four kids and lots of nieces and nephews.  She actually bought a kindergarten table for them to color and play at!  Love her.  This is also the “Kiddie table” at family parties.  It works out great.


There are many kinds of booster seats out there.  It’s up to you to decide what works for you and your child.  If you see that your child has difficulty sitting at the kitchen table with the family, you may want to consider some other options.

  1. Child-size furniture for lunch or independent snacking. (There is no substitute to family mealtime at the table together).
  2.  A seat cushion for a child who tends to wiggle, sit on their feet or stand up while eating.
  3. A booster seat that provides support for the back and feet.

Body Awareness, Positioning, AND MealTIme

Kids with poor body awareness don’t feel things as acutely as we do. They may be sitting in a totally awkward position and don’t even realize that it’s uncomfortable (it’s really not, they barely feel it).  Their pants are falling down and they have no idea.  These children are often behind in potty training because they don’t “feel” that their bladder is full or that they need to go.   Kids with poor body awareness end up with food on their fingers, their shirts, their faces and they simply have no idea because

A) they don’t feel it when it’s happening and

B) they don’t feel it after it happens so it doesn’t feel funny or uncomfortable.

I once sat across from a seventh-grade boy who was eating fries (with his fingers, of course) and noticed that every single time he went to dip his fry in ketchup, he dipped it so hard that his fingers went all the way into the ketchup.  He had no idea (and probably wouldn’t have cared if he did notice).  I thought “how uncomfortable!? ….to have sticky ketchup all over your fingers the whole meal?”  But it wasn’t uncomfortable (for him anyway).

I thought “how uncomfortable!? ….to have sticky ketchup all over your fingers the whole meal?”  But it wasn’t uncomfortable (for him anyway).

Positioning, and mealtime

It’s totally cute when they are a baby! But when they are getting older? uh-oh!

EYE-HAND COORDINATION, Positioning, and Mealtime

Eye-hand coordination is involved in getting the food to your mouth, reaching for a drink without knocking it over, and in spearing the piece of food that you want.  If the child has poor body awareness and poor eye-hand coordination, they accidentally get some food on their chin on the way into their mouth and THEN, they don’t feel it.   These kids often end up with what my sister calls “the Ronald McDonald” red juice mouth.


The EZPZ suctions to the table or highchair, maintaining it’s position no matter what! This limits those knocked over bowls, flying food, and stained up clothing. Click here for 10% off your EZPZ purchase.


Copy the promo code to get 10% off any EZPZ product. Click the picture to go to

This often leads to a messy mealtime.  One quick fix for that is to use the EZPZ, an all-in-one bowl and tray that suctions to the table.  Position the EZPZ on the table or highchair right in from t of the child.  It makes it impossible to knock the bowl of food over (or  even move), which makes it a little easier for little ones who are trying to learn to eat with utensils.  Read more about the EZPZ and get a 10% off promo code here. 
EZPZ and mealtime

Fine Motor Skills, Grasping, Positioning AND mealtime

The position of  the fork and spoon has a lot to do with how much control your child has.  This is directly related to how they hold their pencil.  Many kids who hold their pencils incorrectly tend to wrap their thumb around the rest of their fingers (this is called a thumb wrap grasp).  Usually, these kids make the same mistake with their fork and spoons.  This leads to a “shovel grasp”.

Many children don’t develop the muscles in their hands as well as they should because they don’t hold their forks and pencils properly.

Back to the trainer and the plank – if you do the plank every day, but you do it incorrectly, you don’t develop those rock-hard abs you were hoping for.  Same thing with the fork and the pencil.

If your child  writes and colors every day, but they aren’t holding the pencil properly, they aren’t using the right muscles, and they don’t develop the hand strength and the hand skills that they should.

Moral of the story? Correct the way your kid holds their pencil and their fork – it will help them in the end!

For more information about fine motor skills and Mealtime, check out this wonderful post from

Okay, so I think you get the picture.   Here are some other reasons that positioning and motor skills impact your table manners at mealtime.

Positioning, and mealtime

Bilateral Coordination, POSITIONING, and MeALTIME

Bilateral coordination is the ability to use the two sides of your body together in a coordinated manner.  Think of  using one hand to hold your fork and the other to steady your plate, or one hand to hold your food steady with your fork and the other hand to cut it with a knife.

Many children tend to leave their non-dominant hand hanging by their side during mealtimes because they haven’t developed good consistent bilateral coordination.   You may notice this when they are writing or coloring as well as when they are eating.   By the age of four or five, your child should be starting to use two hands all the time.

One is a dominant hand, and the other is a stabilizer (holding things steady for the dominant hand to do its job).  If your child isn’t doing this, always give them verbal reminders to use their “helping hand” when coloring, writing, and eating.  It will result in a neater, more precise job every time.  Now your paper isn’t wiggling, your plate isn’t moving, etc.

Check your child’s position.  If both hands aren’t “working”, give them verbal reminders to use their “helping hand” when coloring, writing, and eating.  It will result in a neater, more precise job every time.  Now your paper isn’t wiggling, your plate isn’t moving, etc.

positioning, and mealtime

Children need be positioned to use BOTH hands during fine motor activities. This includes eating, painting, coloring, etc. Remind your child, “Use your helping hand!”


This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series.  Check out all of the bloggers who are participating and learn more about the series by clicking on the link above.

To read all of Miss Jaime, O.T.’s posts in this series, check out my Functional Skills for Kids landing page.

For more information on the components and considerations related to Mealtime, stop by and see what the other Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists on the Functional Skills for Kids team have to say:

Fine Motor Skills For Mealtimes  | Therapy Fun Zone

Postural Control, Gross Motor Development and Mealtime  |Your Therapy Source

Attention, Behavior, and Meal Time Problems | Sugar Aunts

4 Ways to Modify Meal Times for Fussy Eaters  | Your Kids OT

Mealtime Skills, Rituals & Play – Nurturing a Love for Food | Kids Play Space

15 Tips for Picky Eaters | The Inspired Treehouse

Visual Perceptual Skills Needed for Independent Feeding | Growing Hands-On Kids

This post contains affiliate links.

I hope that these tips have alerted you to some of the reasons kids have difficulty sitting and eating with the “best” manners.  It can be a lot of work!     Please comment if you have any tips or tricks!

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