Is your child refusing to eat his or her fruits, vegetables, and meats? If so, it sounds like you have a picky eater on your hands. With restaurants opening back up and routines easing back to normal after months of quarantine, kids’ menu options are often limited. ABC Pediatric Therapy shares five tips on how to help your child cope with being a picky eater and keep dinnertime stress free.
Make sure sensory needs are met.
Catering to sensory deficits could be enough to encourage your child to try new foods. A picky eater may be hypersensitive to the smell, sight, or texture of certain foods. Suggestions for increasing sensory tolerance:
- Allow touching of non-preferred foods with fingers.
- Discuss food properties, varieties, preparation and preferences.
- Try variations of foods like cooked versus raw carrots.
- Try changing the temperature of the food like frozen, cold, or room temperature grapes.
- Try using different dips or sauces that the child prefers.
- Read books about trying new foods from your local library.
Test out strategies.
Start introducing new strategies to increase focus, awareness, and engagement at the dinner table. Make mealtime an experience and start slow. Suggestions for introducing new foods:
- Eat dinner as a family.
- Don’t allow your child to graze all day.
- Remove distractions from dinnertime—turn off TV and put away phones and other screens.
- Only introduce one new food at a time and in small portions.
- Introduce the new food at the beginning of the meal when the child is hungry.
- Give choices by asking Do you want three or five green beans?
- Do not require a clean plate.
Start with a free online screening tool.
This interactive screening tool asks questions about fine and gross motor skills, sensory, and speech. “This tool is designed for ages 1 to 6 years old,” says ABC Pediatric Therapy’s Director of Marketing Jodie Reed. “We encourage all parents to try it out!”
Know what’s developmentally appropriate.
As a parent, remembering all the correct tips and tricks from books, articles, and other resources can be overwhelming. It’s important to have a baseline of developmental milestones to keep track of as your child grows. ABC offers a digital developmental checklist that provides a list of common concerns by age. From expectations of independent hand washing to self-feeding, the list provides a timeline for development.
Take immediate action: Schedule a consultation with a professional.
If your child struggles with foods, get help now! It is important to seek out help right away before behaviors become more severe. The earlier intervention is provided, the more effective it can be. You want you and your child to experience less stress as quickly as possible.
It’s great to seek community for parenting advice, but Reed says developmental concerns should always be evaluated by a professional. If you have a concern regarding development for your child, ABC Pediatric Therapy is here to help! The following are red flags that could be a sign that your child may need professional help with their feeding and you should talk to your child’s doctor:
- Inappropriate weight gain (under/overweight).
- Choking, gagging, coughing, or vomiting with eating.
- Difficulty with accepting different textures of foods.
- Not accepting entire food groups (i.e. fruits, vegetables, meats).
- Food range less than 20 foods.
- Child fights with parent about foods.