Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner – eating can be a challenging experience for children with physical disabilities and those who care for them. Maintaining stability, gripping utensils and co-ordinating movements are just some of the issues faced. However, with the help of innovative products specifically designed to meet unique needs, mealtimes can become more empowering and enjoyable for our kids. The following are just a few ideas that aim to promote independence, improve co-ordination, and make mealtimes more positive for everyone involved. Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with professionals in occupational therapy or paediatric feeding for personalised recommendations and guidance tailored to the child’s unique needs.
These utensils are designed with special features like larger handles, angled or bent utensil heads, or built-up grips, making it easier for children with limited dexterity or motor skills to hold and use them.
Easie Eaters are specially designed by an occupational therapist. These angled utensils promote greater success with hand-to-mouth feeding and the built-up handles make them easier to hold.
These models also feature a safety shield is designed to help prevent the spoon or fork from going too far back in your child’s mouth. Available in right and left handed versions as well as various colours.
Kiddikutter Safety Knife
KiddiKutter features a child friendly design with bright colours and no sharp edges.
Even though there are no sharp edges, your KiddiKutter is able to cut through everything from a tomato to a steak with ease. It’s able to do this by using rounded teeth and an easy sawing motion. This makes it very easy for your budding chefs to make their own lunches and creations whenever they like without worrying about accidents.
Ark’s Maroon Spoon
These spoons are a traditional favourite for therapists who specialise in feeding with children. They have a narrow, shallow bowl making them preferable to spoons with deeper, wider bowls. Perfect for working with children with difficulties such as poor lip closure, oral hypersensitivity, or a tongue thrust. While extremely tough and break-resistant, these spoons are plastic so not recommended for clients with severe bite reflex.
Open wide and take a big bite out of your lunch with these cute chopsticks! This two-tone dolphin opens and closes its mouth as you squeeze making every meal jawsome! These clever utensils provide fun and entertainment that helps even the fussiest eaters make it through a meal.
Chunky Grip Assist
The Chunky Grip Assist helps children and adults with fine motor or dexterity issues hold writing tools, cutlery and other equipment. Made from a light foam and shaped for ergonomic comfort.
Non-slip placemats and plates
These products have non-slip bases or suction cups that help prevent plates and bowls from sliding or tipping over during mealtime. They provide stability and promote independent eating.
Nibble Kids Dee-goostation Placemat
The Dee-Goostation placemat is an all-in-one placemat and plate that keeps your kids mess contained.
It suctions directly to the table, making it nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over or lift off.
Easy-scooping Suction Plate
The easy-scoop edge and strong suction base prevent slips, spills, and throws. We love that the suction base is intentionally hidden to prevent children from tying to undo it.
Weighted bowls and cutlery
Weighted bowls and utensils can provide sensory feedback and stability for children with tremors, shaky hands, or coordination difficulties, making it easier for them to eat without spills.
No Tip Weighted Base Cup
This two handled cup with weighted base and rounded corners is ideal for paediatric use.
It is self-righting even when released from a lying position. It comes with a clear plastic, dish-shaped lid with two holes to let fluid flow into the dish for drinking. Another lid has a moulded plastic mouthpiece.
Good Grips Weighted Cutlery
Extra weight helps minimise tremors while eating. The 170g of added weight in the built-up handle provides more control so that the utensil reaches the mouth easier.
Specialised cups and straws
There are spill-proof cups available with features like valves or straws that only release liquid when suction is applied. These can be useful for children with difficulties in drinking or swallowing.
The Honey Bear Bottle
The Honey Bear Bottle by Ark is a fun and friendly way to make drinking easier for beginners and/or children with oral motor difficulties. It’s also an excellent way to transition babies straight from bottles to straw drinking – skipping sippy cups altogether!
Most sippy cups promote improper tongue and lip positioning that can cause speech problems later on. Oral Motor straws are a better alternative, as they strengthen the mouth muscles and encourage tongue retraction, cheek tension, and lip closure.
The Honey Bear Bottle kit features a unique valve that controls the direction of fluid – liquid flows up into the straw, but does not flow back down.
ARK’s Lip Blok mouthpieces are simple yet effective oral motor tools. They naturally exercise the mouth muscles to discourage tongue-thrusting, promote tongue retraction, and correct overall tongue positioning. They also prevent individuals from biting the straw or putting it too far into their mouths. Simply press them into the top of a straw, and drink.
EZPZ Mini Cup +Straw Training System
The EZPZ Mini Cup + Straw Training System provides a safe, comfortable option to encourage toddlers to drink from an open cup and safely learn to use a straw. Learning to drink from a straw is an important developmental milestone that develops lip strength and promotes speech development.
Plate guards and food bumpers
These are plastic guards or bumpers that can be attached to plates to help children push food onto utensils more easily, preventing spills and assisting with self-feeding.
My Plate Mate Food Guard
Designed to keep food on the plate! This will prevent food being pushed off, keeping mealtime less messy. The concave wall will guide food onto the utensil.
Non-slip sloping surface plate
A dining plate with a non-slip base and a sloped surface to assist with collecting food.
Feeding seats and booster chairs
Adjustable feeding seats or booster chairs with support and positioning features can provide better stability and help children sit upright during mealtimes, promoting proper posture and facilitating feeding. There are many complex high tech seating models on the market and you should consult with a therapist on the best solution for your child. Just a few of the models to investigate include:
The Leckey Everyday Activity Seat
Rifton Activity Chair
The Breezi High Chair range