Written By: Jamie McKimmy
Mealtimes can be stressful even without picky eaters. Dealing with picky eating is close to my heart for more reasons than one. As an Occupational Therapist, I found my passion in working with children who struggled with picky eating or problem feeding. As a mom, I found my passion in raising little people and feeding plays a big role in that. Seeing the significance of food as both a professional and a mom has allowed me to develop and use a variety of strategies to help children feel more comfortable around unfamiliar foods.
Why your child may be defined as a “picky eater”
Sensory Processing - Our sensory systems control how we receive information from all of our senses. For example, if a child has an overactive visual system he or she may have trouble with a variety of colors and textures on their plate. This often elicits poor behaviors in a child.
Oral Motor - Eating uses so many different muscles in the mouth and if your child has weak oral motor muscles then he or she may only eat easy to chew foods because other foods take too much work to create a bolus and swallow. This often elicits fear in a child.
Tips for figuring out what might be causing your child’s picky eating
Behavior - Does your child gag, vomit, cry, scream, leave the table? Behaviors tell us what your child is feeling and experiencing.
Textures - Does your child have difficulty with only certain textures? Does he or she tolerate being messy?
Tips for helping your child increase their amount of preferred foods
1. Respect child’s responses
2. Take it one step at a time
3. Give choices
4. Figure out what truly is the problem (sensory or oral motor)
5. Always serve a preferred food with non preferred foods
6. Have your child involved with making and serving foods
7. Make it fun and do lots of playing
8. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Remember it is YOUR job to provide the food, but it is NOT your job to make your child eat. It is most important to continue to provide rich opportunities and make it FUN. It is also important to know when intervention by a feeding therapist might be needed.