Finally, There Is Help For Your
Picky Eaters! Tips, Resources, And Activities That Work!
The daily frustrations of getting your
picky eaters to tolerate and eat
"normal" foods and a greater variety can be absolutely overwhelming for both the
parents and child.
Trust me, I know, because I am a mom of one!
Oh, the things we went through (and still do, to a certain extent... but it
has gotten better), to get our little girl to eat normal, healthy, nutritional
foods! Her claim to fame is her animal loving spirit that can now rationalize
am a vegetarian". It works for her because she advocates against killing animals
and it keeps her from eating meat, which she
can't stand the sight, smell, texture, or taste of it. At 10 years old, this
works for her (as long as she gets protein other ways, that is), and is accepted
by society (luckily).
Sensory Processing Disorder, in particular,
oral defensiveness, is one
of the leading causes (if not THE leading cause) of picky eaters.
(Click Here To Find Out If Your Child Shows Signs Of Oral Defensiveness)
Don't worry, I will also be writing a specific, in-depth article on oral
defensiveness soon! It will give you a better understanding of why this happens
and how to identify it.
However, for those of you who already know your child is orally
defensive, has a sensory processing disorder, or absolutely qualifies
as a fussy eater,
then this article is for you!
If you have never heard of oral defensiveness, but checked off multiple lines
on the sensory integration dysfunction checklist mentioned earlier, then you
definitely may have a true picky eater on your hands.
Below, you will find a list of helpful hints and tips I've both collected
and used that I hope will help YOUR fussy eaters!
General "Treatments" To Try At Home
Give your child multiple opportunities every day for "oral-motor"
(Click Here For An Extensive List Of Activities To Try)
Allow your fussy eaters to explore and play with their food. This
will allow him to experience different textures through the tactile
system which will ultimately help. Due to their oral hypersensitivity,
they will feel "safer" exploring textures with their hands first, rather
than their mouths. It is much less threatening and will lead to a better
Grind up "real" foods; as many of the foods the family is eating as
possible! This way, they may tolerate the texture better and begin
getting used to the tastes. You can also add their favorite condiment to
the ground up food to make it more palatable and "smoother". Here is one
food chopper to try... just click on the picture for more details...
Powerful chopper/grinder; 21-ounce work bowl; 2 speeds for precision chopping. Patented reversible blade chops or grinds; brushed stainless steel base. Dishwasher-safe parts. Instruction/recipe book included.
Use a "Fresh Food Feeder" (pictured below); just click on the picture
for more details) to help your child try new flavors or to introduce
regular whole foods, without the risk of choking.
This award-winning product allows your baby to enjoy lots of
delicious foods without the choking risk. Simply put a piece of fruit,
vegetables or meat into the mesh bag and snap shut. Your baby can chew, suck and
enjoy all the whole food goodness and taste, with only the tiniest, digestible
pieces coming through. Your baby gets great flavor and you get great peace of
Once you find a particularly successful food, try introducing similar
foods. For example, if your child likes a particular brand of frozen
pizza, then try; other brands, other toppings on the preferred brand,
another "style" (i.e., thin crust, French bread, stuffed crust etc.), or try
a variety of homemade pizzas using different "crusts" (i.e., frozen bread
dough, pre-made pizza crusts, refrigerated crusts, English muffins,
bagels, or pita bread).
Try providing distractions while they are eating such as
conversations, favorite stories, poems, pictures, songs, relaxing music,
a toy he can hold or squeeze, or anything you can think of... just try it
and see what works. Or "bribe" him with these things... he can only get
or do something after he takes a bite, chews it, or swallows it etc.
(making it realistic to where he is at, only the NEXT logical step)
Set up a reward system. use tokens, reward stickers, pennies, etc. and
reward your child for trying a new food (even if he gags or can not eat
more than one bite). He can then trade them in for a new toy, or any
kind of reward you set up. (For example, my daughter was so bad, we set
up a reward system of a new bike after she added 10 new foods to her
repertoire). Find a reward system which works for both you and your
child that will encourage him to try new foods, tastes, and textures.
Once you find a food, get him to eat more of it and begin gradually
adding it to his usual repertoire.
Give your child as much control as possible... give him a choice of
two new foods to try. Let him know he only needs to eat one bite to see
if he likes it. Praise him for trying, even if it doesn't "stay down".
Do this FIRST, then he can have his preferred meal. (It is important you
do it first while he is most hungry and while there is less food in his
stomach in case he gags). Find out the best time of day for YOUR child
to try something new... breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. When is he
most agreeable, hungry, willing, awake, etc.
Pay attention to textures! fussy eaters with oral defensiveness are
infamous for only being able to tolerate one or two food textures or
temperatures. Make sure you try to introduce new foods to ultimately
include: hot, cold, and neutral temperatures for food and drinks, pureed
food, smooth, chunky, hard, soft, crunchy, "slippery", sticky, and mixed
textures. If there is NO wheat allergy, you can increase and change
textures by adding a 1/4 tsp. of wheat germ per 4 oz. of pureed food. If
tolerated, for a few days, add another 1/4 tsp. to the same amount. If
NOT tolerated (gagging, choking), wait a few days or week and try again.
When brushing his teeth, brush tongue and cheeks with just water then
brush teeth normally. Use regular or vibrating toothbrushes. Vibration
is best if they will tolerate it
If an infant or toddler, use vibrating and/or textured teething rings and toys
Give your picky eaters free reign of the condiments... whatever it
takes to get them to eat it! (i.e., ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad
dressing, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper, creamy soups,
gravy, etc.) Eventually you can begin fading out the condiments, using
less and less, each time as he begins to get used to the food.
Praise, Praise, Praise... positive reinforcement! No punishment!. If
they did more than the time before they have accomplished something. If
they played with it, smelled it, licked it, tasted it, chewed it and spit
it out, or actually swallowed it (with or without gagging), then praise them
for what they did do, do not punish them for what they didn't do.
Give your picky eaters 1/2 of a freeze pop or popsicle before they
try a new food. The cold will help "numb" and desensitize their mouth.
Recommended "Therapeutic" Treatments
(best used under recommendation and direction of an Occupational Therapist
or Speech Therapist for when, why, how, and how much)
Use oral massagers on lips, insides of cheeks, palate, tongue, and
gums. (Some great products to try are Z-Vibes, Jigglers, ProFeeder,
and the NUK toothbrush/oral massager). Or, if they tolerate it, a vibrating toothbrush will work well.
Use "finger brushes", such as finger tip massagers, "toothettes",
or a regular toothbrush and/or the new "Brush Ups", if they can tolerate
the taste (you can find them at any regular pharmacy by the
toothpaste/mouthwash). Use these to stimulate and rub the gums, lips,
tongue, inside cheeks, and teeth.
Use a special, strong, sterile tubing (chewy tubes)
to chew on at various times during the day. NOTE: fingertip brushes and
tubing can both be dipped in flavored juices or anything with a palatable
flavor. Or, dip it into less tolerated flavors (i.e., sweet, sour, or
spicy) to begin introducing them to something new.
Rub and massage the child's face, lips, and cheeks with cloths of
various textures and fabrics to gradually decrease sensitivity. Begin
with materials such as satin and silk, move on to soft cotton, then baby washcloths (smooth side first, then rougher side), and ultimately
increasing to rougher washcloths and towels.
Make sure your child is properly positioned; sitting up straight, no
slouching. You can use bolsters, pillows, a slight recline... whatever
position works best. A therapist will help you with this.
I know how overwhelming all of this can be when you have a picky eater in your
family. There are "costs" involved. Everyone will give you their
parenting advice (like, just force it down them, make them go to bed
hungry, make them clean their plate, spank them, etc.). They will judge
you and your child for your choices and decisions, as well as the way
your child eats and how you deal with the situation.
It may take weeks,
months, and sometimes years of active treatment before your child can tolerate
enough "normal" foods to get by, get the proper nutrition, and "fit in". You and
your child will battle, your child will
resist, you both may have difficulty emotionally dealing with the
struggles that present themselves. It may be emotionally and physically
exhausting at times and you may want to give up trying.
But I beg of you... be strong! Get the professional help, guidance, and
support you need. Educate yourself (as you are now), your child (if they
are old enough), as well as friends and family. Help your picky eaters
gain a sense of "normalcy", victory, accomplishment, and a decrease in
anxiety and fear. Don't give up on them! Reach out for help and turn
your picky eaters into not-so-picky-eaters. You, your child, and your
family WILL benefit from actively treating their oral defensiveness...
Don't miss this great opportunity! Take charge, take control, gain
freedom, end those mealtime battles and get your life back by helping your
picky eaters overcome his fears and sensitivities!
Your picky eaters deserve your help! Good luck... and remember,
Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists are out there ready to help and
support you! If you want or need help, just say the word! We deal with these
picky eaters every day. There is help, there is hope!
Do You Have Any Picky Eater Ideas?
If you have any ideas, thoughts, comments or gems of wisdom you would like to share with the readers of Sensory-Processing-Disorder.com, feel free to do so in the form below.
What Other Visitors Have Said About Picky Eaters
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Exhausted grandparent Not rated yet
My granddaughter is eight years old. She has been diagnosed with autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Mild retardation, and Pervasive Development Delays.
Mom of two Not rated yet
I have two picky eaters. One of my children has a gtube and the other has many feeding issues. I use to live with a feeling of being a bad parent because …
Parent of a dyslexic Not rated yet
We have lots of allergies on all sides of family - had a child who was a pickey eater, disliked mashed potatoes and hates taste of asparagus. Had one …
5 year wont eat much Not rated yet
My step daughter is 5 and I have been her mom for 2 years now. The past couple months she has started taking a few bites and then says she is going to …
Bacon and cheddar cheese! Not rated yet
My grandson loves bacon and cheddar cheese, so to get him to eat salads, baked potatoes, sandwiches and even soup I will put it in it and offer him a taste.. …
Discouraged Parent Not rated yet
My daughter is 22 mths.old and only eats crackers,yogurt,Gerber rice puffs,cinnamon graham crackers,applesauce, fruit baby foods,and not to mention MILK …
Thank Heaven for Therapy! Not rated yet
My two sons go for weekly OT/ST for SPD and speech language issues. I had tried all kinds of fun interactive ways to get my kids to eat healthy foods (even …
Sudden changes in eating habits Not rated yet
My 6 year old daughter has suddenly began chewing food for an unreasonable amount of time, at times she chews and then spits out. She also seems to be …
POPSICLE Center/BCBA Not rated yet
For extremely picky eaters, there is a non-profit parent's organization called the POPSICLE Center.
To expand on the rewards approach using a systematic …
Does not eat anything solid Not rated yet
I have a 20 month old boy, he was born premature at 8 months 2weeks early; we have a hard time feeding him any food whether baby food or worse solid foods.. …
Unhealthy eater Not rated yet
My son is a very picky eater, we have tried all the tricks and nothing, He is 7 years old and for the past few weeks he is starting to look unhealthy, …
ASD and picky eater Not rated yet
My son is 4 years old and is autistic,he got this diagnosis when he was 19 mths old as PDD-NOS.He was eating good and all his milestones were delayed …
Looking up Not rated yet
When my son, being a picky eater, spent time around his older cousin, he returned home to liking burger and steak. Most of the time he needs the barbecue …
Adrian the fussy eater Not rated yet
My 7 month old just doesn't want anything at first. he loved all vegetables purees but now he only wants yogurt when I feed him he just keeps it in his …
Grandmother of 3 y/o sensational kid Not rated yet
my grandson is 3 1/2, had been diagnosed with SPD and also suffered with infantile gastroparesis. We thought his refusal to eat anything other than baby …
Do you have a PICKY EATER? Not rated yet
Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, Feeding Expert, is coming to the Syracuse area next month!
“Hi Lori, I was the mom with the three autistic children in …
Tip: Lunch playdates and DVD Not rated yet
My daughter just turned 2 and has always been a picky eater. I think it helps when she eats with other kids because she likes to copy them. I try to …
Victories Finally! Not rated yet
I love your ideas here! We have tried so many tricks of the trade to get our 10 year old boy to eat "new foods." For us, none were working, but we found …
Don't try to trick them Not rated yet
Worst advice is trying to mask foods, or alter their taste. The idea of introducing new foods or flavors slowly by adding to a favorite dish is the worst …
Mom Not rated yet
My 4 years old son he is really picky about food. not only that he is also sensitive about the temperature of the food. he only eats his favorite food …
Be careful with picky eaters advice! Not rated yet
Please note that picky eating can be a sign of an food allergy and or a GI issue. For instance, our son was a picky eater and was put through much rigor …
In the Meantime Diet Option Not rated yet
My son Stanton is now 10 years old, and he does not eat solid or "real" foods. He is not on a feeding tube, but is on a Dr. prescribed "diet" of what …
Mom Not rated yet
Bought a juicer and juice green beans,sweet potato,carrots etc and add to the apple juice. Sweet and palatable but slightly thicker than juice alone and …
leah SLP Not rated yet
I like to mix a desired food with a new food you are trying to introduce. This may help you get the child to try the food.
Build the Hunger! Not rated yet
I know this may sound just like common sense, but I figured I'd throw it out there anyway. Our son is just about 3 yrs old. with SI disorder and is a VERY …
Mom and OT Not rated yet
I think it is important to realize that eating is a family event. Even if it is for a short period, try to bring everyone to the table for a pleasurable …
Mirror in front of an infant Not rated yet
Having a mirror in front of an infant, will cause the infant to think there is another child who is eating with her. And she is not alone. This only works …
Feed from the side Not rated yet
Feeding from the side instead of up front is less frightening to an infant or a toddler. If the child is afraid of food, having the food approach him seems …
Ethan's SPD journey Not rated yet
Use cake sprinkles on top of cut up bananas. My son prefers the chocolate sprinkles on his bananas.
OTR Not rated yet
My son is very picky and turns down food just by sight. I try to add baby food to his Spaghetti-O's, pizza sauce just to get some fruit and veggies in …
Picky in Penngrove Not rated yet
I started giving my child smoothies while very young (2 years)) to try and get in some fruit, vegetables and protein. We finally bought a vitamix which …
Taste and spit Not rated yet
Giving a child a "spit cup" at the table allows them to bite, taste and spit new foods into the cup. This takes the pressure off of having to eat/swallow …
Take Your Time Not rated yet
Calm is important in this process in that the child can pick up on your "vibe"....frustration, anger, panic,etc... Making the mealtime as pleasant as possible …
Blind child with weight loss Not rated yet
My son is 3 years old and has poor weight gain actually lost a pound this last month and has a very limited diet due to his sensory issues. The dr has …
Picky Eater Not rated yet
How do you know when you just have a picky eater on your hands, or if you need to intervene to see what the problem is? My son has been a difficult eater …
Making foods yummy Not rated yet
Have family tasting nights with bite size foods eg. baby pizza's, bagels with assorted toppings, cheeses, fruits, veggies and dips and nutritious but interesting …
Eating Not rated yet
I am a teacher working with 5 year old developmental delayed children. A couple of the children have issues with eating. I believe it surrounds the texture …
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