Alix O’Hara from Mashblox Pty Ltd believes there is! Alix is so passionate about childhood health outcomes, overcoming the obesity epidemic and its impact potential on individual lives, that she has created the mission-driven company Mashblox Pty Ltd around her invention of the Mashblox® product.
Mashblox® is an assistive technology to support self-feeding and make it fun, with the premise that nobody knows better than the child how much they need to eat, and that taste often isn’t the biggest factor in picky eating. Backed by initial research, Mashblox’ business model partners with academia to advance studies into food preferences and long term health outcomes using their self-feeding invention.
Initial feedback suggests she’s created something that works.
When we met Kat, her 14-month-old, Madelyn, was on “the brown diet”. She wasn’t necessarily a fussy eater, but peas and spinach were more likely to be fed to the dog over the side of the high chair than they were to be eaten by her.
We’d previously interacted with kids who started eating porridge for the first time because Mum used our product to change how the food was delivered, we thought we’d test a theory.
As the best fussy eating experts advice includes suggestions to make foods fun, serve child-size portions, let them use their hands, and develop their sense of independence; our idea was to make foods fun, playful and engaging, whilst removing any concerns that bub might have about handling that slimy, lumpy, glistening strangeness that isn’t any more attractive in their hands than on the spoon. Then, maybe, kids would have less reason not to eat them.
Madelyn had already been eating weetbix and milk out of Mashblox®, so we suggested Kat try creating something green in “mash potato consistency” that could be spooned into our soft, tactile blox, because we know sometimes it’s the colour that puts kids off. Kat went straight for spinach and peas, minced them up with yoghurt in the blox and offered it to Madelyn. This is the result:
Kat was so happy that we went on to film a video of how she uses them: You can watch the film on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXKnjTOY6R4.
One might assume Madelyn could obviously taste the difference, so we decided taste probably wasn’t as big a factor in fussy eating behaviours as some might think, which is supported by other feedback we have received
“She won’t eat avocado, but if it’s in mashblox she will. That’s really important when she’s got low ketone epilepsy” – Deeana, mother of Hayley, 3
“We thought that he didn’t like porridge, but when we put it in mashblox we realised that he just didn’t like having spoons and things shoved in his mouth” Stephanie, of her son 10.5-month-old son Eddie
“Hubby bought a mashblox today. It's excellent! Baby is eating fresh banana for the first time instead of the jar stuff! Thank you!” – Taleah, Mum of Cruz, 6 months
However, the initial success is not limited to infants, with older children expressing their opinion.
“Mum, Mashblox aren’t just for babies, they’re for everyone” quote from 10year old, eating portion controlled ice cream from a Mashblox.
Alix offers these suggestions to help expand children’s diets:
- Start with a “gateway food” that you know that they like the taste of.
The familiarity period will depend on the child. They just need to feel safe, and know the blox are something to eat out of.
Some children may just need to start by getting used to the blox. They may like to chew, or play, or dig small pieces of food out of the slit.
- Transition to a food of similar texture, but vary the colour, or the flavour over several meals.
You may want to phase in increasing quantities of another desired food, e.g. mash potato with a proportion of mash carrot that grows per meal. You may want to only change one variable at a time depending on your child’s sensitivity e.g. “Super-tasters” have a particular sensitivity to bitterness, so you’ll need to be particularly careful introducing bitter vegetables, or else counteract their flavour with honey or suitable flavouring.
We do not recommend putting foods in there that they outright dislike.
- Keep a poker face.
If your child sees you acting differently now that you’ve snuck their least favourite food in front of them, it might be enough to put them off.
- Set a good example! Remember kids often take their cues from how we handle food.
Mashblox Pty Ltd
Mashblox Pty Ltd is a mission-driven company partnering with academia to advance self-feeding science to address long term nutritional health outcomes for infants, including obesity prevention. Mashblox® is a versatile, easy-to-use, assistive self-feeding tool to support feeding independence.
P: 1300 MASHBLOX
M: 0408 697 298