“No Thank You” Bowl Protocol
The “no thank you” bowl protocol is an intervention designed to shape inappropriate mealtime behaviors for children that are selective eaters.
Individuals that are highly selective with food may exhibit dysfunctional behaviors when presented with nonpreferred consumables. Such behaviors may include tantrums, throwing food, elopement from the table, etc. Mealtimes for children, especially young children, can be very difficult and problematic for the whole family. Some families may make separate “kid meals” for their children to avoid maladaptive mealtime behaviors.
The “no thank you” bowl protocol is designed to allow selective eaters to properly dispose of their food while making physical contact with the food. Physical contact with nonpreferred consumables is vital to the shaping progression toward consumption. To be ok with what we are putting in our bodies, we must first be ok with it on the outside of our bodies. This is a fundamental pre-requisite step toward trying new foods.
The “no thank you” bowl does not have to be a specific bowl at each meal, but it’s important that it is present. If you are preparing a specific meal for your selective eater, it’s important that whatever the family is eating is on the child’s plate. If they do not want it, then they simply place the unwanted food in the bowl. This may be modeled for them. If your child is not yet ready to have unwanted contents on their plate, then the family meal should start on a separate plate next to theirs. Hand over hand prompting may be necessary to teach your child to place the contents in the bowl.
Please remember this can be a long process, so it’s not a race to get everything right immediately. When it comes to feeding interventions, taking it slow is key. We want to ensure that we are not inadvertently pairing a bad experience with food. The end goal is that food is good! Please take your time, happier and healthier mealtimes are on the horizon for your family!
Genevieve Covington, M.A., BCBA
Founder & Feeding Specialist