#12 - Why You Should Consider Visiting a U-Pick Farm with Your Child with Feeding Challenges

Feb 19, 2023
#12 - Why You Should Consider Visiting a U-Pick Farm with Your Child with Feeding Challenges

We’ve talked a lot this month about fruit and how it can be challenging for children with feeding difficulties. 


But they might have left a lot of questions for you about where to go from here, and how exactly to help your child open up to the idea of fruits. 


If you’ve been listening to the podcast or following my Instagram for a while, you know that I am a HUGE proponent of learning about foods and introducing them away from the table.


This is because I feel that this really opens up the possibility of exploring and having true fun around new foods without any pressure at all of eating them. Additionally, it provides the opportunity for children to utilize their senses in a different, less threatening and fun way to learn about a food.

Additionally, instead of focusing on just those “bites” at mealtimes, I really encourage parents to adopt a food explorer lifestyle. What I mean by this is practicing a lifestyle with your child that encourages fun, exploration, and their own love of food. And exploring foods away from the table can help you do that.

There’s a variety of ways you can do this, but today I want to talk in depth about one of them - You pick farms. 


You’ve probably heard someone recommend gardening as a way to help children explore new foods. I’m a big fan of that too and we’ll actually be talking about it next month in a future episode. You pick farms are a little extension of that.


Right away, I do want to tell you that the research on gardening isn’t great, and some have even found that it didn’t make a massive difference in intake of fruits and vegetables.


But what I think here it’s important to point out that gardening or you-pick farms aren’t something we’re doing in isolation. If gardening and you-pick farms were the ONLY method you were planning to use, than I think that research might be a bigger issue. But we’re doing this with a bigger picture and other strategies in mind, and I personally think that makes all the difference. 


So in my personal opinion, while these techniques don’t always (and I say always because they are also plenty of studies that have found that they were helpful, depending on how the study was conducted), so while the techniques don’t always have a direct change in eating fruits and vegetables, it does help helps kids practice those first couple steps - looking at, interacting with, and touching new foods before they even get to the table.

I’ve talked about this in past podcast episodes, but I really like the SOS Approach to Feeding for kids with feeding challenges. According to the SOS Approach to Feeding there are 32-steps to eating that range from being in the same room as a food, to touching it, to biting and swallowing it.

For example, think of that first time you ate sushi. Is it a food you just immediately stuck in your mouth? If you’re anything like me you didn’t. You probably watched people eat it a couple times, while you had a different meal on your plate. Then maybe you put one on your plate and poked it with your chopsticks. Finally you felt brave enough to test it out on your teeth before taking a teeeeny tiny bite. Without realizing it, you went through these steps. And they made you feel comfortable before getting to that chew and swallow step.

But many children with feeding challenges get stuck at the lower steps - like looking at (for example so many of you tell me your child won’t even acknowledge that food), interacting with, or touching. And so a really easy way to practice this is at a you-pick farm. 


Again, I want to be realistic and honest with you when it comes to research. I personally think SOS is a fantastic approach, but there are research out there that supports other methods too. The SOS Approach to Feeding is not a fast approach - and it’s not really meant to be. It’s meant to help children become comfortable at their own pace so they can form a lifelong healthy relationship with food. 


Ok, so you-pick farms - what are they. These are farms that grow fruits and vegetables, but that you can visit and pick your own! So for example, you can often go to a farm and pick your own apples, strawberries, or blueberries.


Depending on where you live and the time of the year, there are different options. 


Children can really interact at their own pace, they can just adventure through the rows of fruit, pick them off, and some children will even try and eat them right away (of course, this comes down to your comfort with them eating it without washing it - we always wash ours first).


But, you and I know it might not be as easy as you just showing up and your child being super excited to pick some fruit. So I wanted to give you a couple tips for how to make this easier for them:


  1. Wear comfortable clothing: If your child does not usually interact or eating fruit, we already know that  this is going to be a more challenging experience. So I would definitely recommend allowing your child to wear clothing that is comfortable for them, so all their focus can be on learning. It’s really hard to do something new, if you’re already uncomfortable.

  2. Bring sunglasses: If your child is sensitive to visual information, or light, sunglasses can be really helpful for minimizing visual input - giving their sensory system more room to explore and play.

  3. Bring kid-safe scissors: The farms might not always provide you with scissors that you feel confident letting your child use. Many fruits can be picked by hand, but others need to be cut, so bringing scissors your child can safely use will allow them to be more independent.

  4. Bring gloves: If your child isn’t ready to touch the fruit with their hands, we don’t want them to not be able to participate. This is especially hard for children who struggle with graded control. Graded control is knowing how hard to pick and pull that fruit off the vine without it squishing. So if your child is sensitive to getting their hands dirty, but than they accidentally keep squishing the fruit, they’re going to be less likely to want to interact. But giving them a pair of gloves will provide that barrier if they’re not ready to touch it with their hands.

  5. Remember, the goal of this is to have fun and help your child explore and interact. We don’t want this to be a high pressure activity, but rather a way for them to start to learn about food in a different way. If they’re not ready to do the activity, try to find somewhere in the middle where they can still be a part of it - maybe they can hold the bucket, or count how many you’ve picked. Focus on the fun, interaction, and relationship first.


And that brings us to the end of our u-pick chat. If you’ve been listening to the Food Explorers Podcast and loving it, I would be so grateful if you could leave a review for me! Just scroll to the bottom and click the 5 stars! 


And I hope you’ll join us back here next week when J.R. is coming back to the podcast to chat with me about my Making Sense of Eating program. If you have a sensational child, who struggles at the table, you’re going to want to tune in for this. See you then!



1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666317303549

2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12966-014-0099-7 

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27449267/ 


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