How to NOT Stick a Fork up Your Nose! The Wonderful Sense of Proprioception

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Our developing self-awareness plays into learning how to feed ourselves.

My career as a feeding therapist focuses on teaching kids how to explore new foods, learning to enjoy various tastes, temperatures and textures. We delve into all 5 senses: taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. It’s easy to consider how each of those senses impacts a child’s ability to be more adventurous eaters. Obviously, taste can vary from tongue to tongue and every great chef tells us that first, we “feast with our eyes”. There is nothing more comforting to me than the aroma of fresh baked bread. Consider the first time a child touches a Brussels sprout, they learn that it has a firm center surrounded by rippled leaves that just might tickle their mouth with the first bite. The sense of hearing involves more than just the whir of the blender or the chop, chop, chop on a cutting board. Every one of us hears the crunch of a cracker in our mouths via bone conduction, where the sound waves travel though the bones in our skulls to our inner ear.

My previous article focused on the inner ear or the vestibular system and how our sense of balance impacts our willingness to try new foods. Today’s article focuses on the wonderful sense of proprioception, which is the kindest sense of all. Without it, you could easily put a fork up your nose or bite so hard into a sandwich that you bite your tongue instead.

Proprioception refers to the our own awareness of where our various body parts are in space while considering how much strength or effort must be utilized to move each part in a coordinated and effective manner. My own poor proprioception is why I constantly bang my knee on the edge of my desk when I stand up too quickly, even though that desk has been in the same spot for the past 10 years. Blame it on inferior proprioceptive skills when I tip my tall iced tea glass much too rapidly and I end up with ice cascading down my shirt.

For children who are developing their sense of proprioception, learning to control a fork in order to stab a new food like a cooked carrot can be tricky. Stab too hard and the carrot breaks into pieces or hold the fork at the wrong angle and the carrot becomes orange mush. As a child’s muscles contract and stretch with each attempt at piercing the carrot, the brain receives proprioceptive input to communicate exactly what is happening and thus, how to adjust and grade the movement in order to get the carrot on the tines of the fork. With practice and repeated input to the brain, eventually a child learns to stab the carrot and then fine-tune the movements so that the carrot ends up in the mouth and not up the nose.

So, the next time you use your fork, give thanks for the delicious food and your sense of proprioception. Without it, who knows where the food would end up!

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About the author: Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, is a certified speech language pathologist and national speaker on the topic of picky eating. She is the author of the award winning book, Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! and the executive producer of the acclaimed children’s CD, Dancing in the Kitchen.

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Mel’s tips to help your child be a more adventurous eater can be found on her My Munch Bug facebook page](https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Munch-Bug/146340342073238?fref=ts), twitter or on her website.

One Response to How to NOT Stick a Fork up Your Nose! The Wonderful Sense of Proprioception

  1. Jackie May 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    You had me with your fabulously witty title! And such an informative and helpful article for all moms, particularly those of us with picky eaters. So happy to have found your page!

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