This guest post comes to us from Lisa Zaharioudakis. Lisa is the creator of One Step Up – The Food Adventure Game, a hands-on, interactive game that allows for kids of all ages to explore new foods in a relaxed, adventurous format.  She combines her experience as a BCBA and her training as a special education teacher to put the fun back in foods for kids and take the stress out of mealtimes for parents!


Eating is more than just putting food in your mouth. It is a whole-body sensory experience. How does the food look? Is it big or small? Does it sound crunchy when I chew it? Does it feel hot or cold on my teeth? How does it smell?

Eating entails sitting in a proper upright position in which your core strength is stabilizing you and having the focus and attending skills to sit for 15 minutes. It also includes having the fine motor skills to pick up a spoon, scoop an appropriately sized piece of food, hold the spoon at the correct angle while bringing it to your mouth, and the oral motor skills to coordinate your tongue, teeth, jaw, breathing and swallowing to eat the food. 

For many kids, eating can be an unpredictable, scary experience, when all they want is to know what to expect and to be able to control the situation. Imagine that one day you squish a blueberry around in your mouth and it’s sweet, but the next day when you eat a blueberry, it’s really tart. It’s hard to know what to expect the next time you eat a blueberry, right?

So much goes into the eating experience!

Below are some tips to support your child in the eating experience:

  • Serve the same food but in a different presentation.
    • Serve the grilled cheese sandwich but maybe today you cut it into 2 big triangles instead of 4 small squares.
  • Use a muffin tin as a tasting board.
    • Put small servings of many different foods, each into their own section, and let your child pick and choose what to touch, lick, kiss, bite and eat.
  • Present small serving sizes.
    • This will visually feel less overwhelming and they can always ask for more!
  • Don’t lose hope after you serve a new food the first time (or even couple of times).
    • It can take up to 25 exposures of a food before a child knows if they like the food or not. 
  • Talk about the foods they’re eating.
    • What does it sound like when you take a bite? What does it look like? Can we make a train with your carrots?
  • Eat with them.
    • Kids imitate what they see, so modeling from the adults (and older siblings or friends) is really valuable!
  • Involve them in the shopping, cooking and baking experiences.
    • When children are hands on with their food, experiencing all of the senses, it expands their exposure to the food and supports them in building up trust with new foods. 


Another fun way to try new foods is to play One Step Up – The Food Adventure Game! This interactive board game encourages kids to eat a variety of new foods in an exciting game environment. After answering a question card, the players have their choice of how they want to experience the food. Move anywhere from 1 space for touching the food to 5 spaces for eating the food! The first player to reach the Winner’s circle wins!  You can learn more about the game at www.onestepupgame.com


“After working with hundreds of families as a special educator and behavior analyst, I saw a pattern: mealtimes were stressful! Combining my training in the science of behavior change and my experience as a teacher, I embedded the principles of motivation, reinforcement, and shaping into a fun and hands-on interactive game for kids of all ages. Now, kids can experience new foods in a relaxed and adventurous game environment with their friends and family, and take the pressure and stress out of mealtimes!”  – Lisa


The game is available here: One Step Up Game


And don’t forget to follow One Step Up Game on Facebook