Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Barrett, Sheila

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Health Studies


Toddlers--Nutrition; Preschool children--Nutrition


A balanced diet is fundamental in growth and development. The toddler and preschool years represent a time of cognitive, emotional, and social development. Many children's dietary intake does not meet the recommendations established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and he U.S. Department of Agriculture. Specifically, there is a concern regarding fruit and vegetable intake. Picky/ selective eating patterns are common among children, but have been shown to be more prevalent and ongoing in children with developmental delays. Family meal style service has been shown to promote a balanced diet, and thus a useful tool for combating picky/selective eating. Family Meal Style eating makes meal time a learning experience and is aimed to help children develop positive attitudes towards nutritious foods, learn to engage in social eating situations, and develop healthy eating patterns. Children learn through observation at a young age, and therefore caregivers and peers serve as important role models for establishing eating patterns and behaviors. In the play group setting, individuals have the opportunity to model peers, play group organizers, and parents/ caregivers. Unfortunately, local play groups are limited and typically not aimed towards children with developmental delays, and those that are available charge a substantial out-of-pocket fee. The objective of the study was to determine the impact of Family Style Meal Service and modeling techniques during snack time on dietary intake and problematic eating behaviors among children with developmental delays participating in an interdisciplinary play group. A pre-test, post-test research design was used for the Interdisciplinary Developmental Play Group intervention. The commitment for participation was a total was 10 weeks; week 1 involved screening followed by 8 weeks of intervention, and a follow up assessment on week 10. In total, 12 children completed the program. The aim was to increase the children's consumption of fruit, vegetables, dairy, and protein and decrease the children's consumption of sugar sweetened foods and beverages and salty snacks. After analysis, it was determined that the average intake of fruit, vegetables, dairy, protein, sugar sweetened foods and beverages, and salty snack all decreased over the intervention. Following a Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test, it can be stated that these results lack significance (α<0.05). However, eating and meal time behaviors were found to have significantly (α<0.05) decreased following the intervention. In conclusion, Family Style Meal Service and modeling techniques are positively related to eating and meal time behaviors in young children participating in play group therapy. However, the 8-week intervention did not prove to have a significant positive impact on dietary intake. The findings suggest that the social setting of the play group and Family Style Meal Service may be important in establishing healthy habits, but are not conclusive.


Advisors: Sheila Barrett.||Committee members: Priyanka Ghosh Roy; Christina Odeh; Thomas Smith.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vi, 108 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type