Everyday, Simple Idea #21: Toothpicks

I am sharing some of the simple, daily things I do at home as a Mom that come from my occupational therapy background.

#21 Toothpicks as an eating utensilfruittoothpick2

Children love being allowed to play with their food.  Using toothpicks while eating is a great way to engage children while encouraging developmental skills.  It has several benefits:

  • Holding the small toothpick encourages grasp development because it uses the thumb, index, and middle fingers which are the same fingers used to hold a pencil for writing.
  • Develops control over hand movements, which is called force modulation, controlling the amount of force used in motor movements.
  • Promotes eye-hand coordination, which is the coordination between the hands to a visual target.
  • As children get older and experiment with different ways to hold the toothpick (twirling it, hold 3 at time, etc), it helps develop all the small muscles in the hand needed for dexterity at fine motor tasks.

Extra idea for picky eaters: An additional benefit is that children often eat more or eat things that are not preferred foods when allowed appropriate ways to “play” with foods.  Even if a child doesn’t eat a new food, the act of touching the food and stabbing it with a toothpick is the first step in getting familiar with new foods that may be frightening or adverse to a child.  Another great way to use the toothpicks is to use them to dip food in a variety of sauces (ketchup, dressing, whip cream, etc).fruittoothpick1

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.  www.paigehays.net