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 her sensory defensiveness..."I 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).

A 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" activities. (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 overall response.

  • 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 mind!

     

  • 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... I promise!

    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!


     


     

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    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 …

    We read his favorite book while we eat. Not rated yet
    The rule is he has to take a bite before we turn the page.

    Use technology! iTunes app is a great motivator Not rated yet
    The My Family Food app on iTunes engages the entire family in a healthy eating “competition” to complete individualized goals and earn “medals”. Each persons …

    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 …

    My wonderful 6 year old boy is a picky eater. Not rated yet
    Well Mack is 6 and refuses to eat or taste new foods. His first time at the dentist was like war. He would rather receive a spanking than to taste a new …

    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 …

    Mom of 2 SPD Kid (Opposite Ends of the Spectrum) Not rated yet
    I was a picky eater and now my daughter is also a picky eater, so I get it. I make whatever I am already making for the family but leave off the strong …

    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 …

    Attempt offering the same food multi-times. Not rated yet
    If the child refuses a food item, offer the same food next week. She may try it the next week. Several times my child would reject, puke, and choke at …

    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 …

    Click here to write your own.

    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 …

    How young can Oral Defensiveness be diagnosed? Not rated yet
    I have an 8.5 mo old daughter who has only been breastfed (no bottles or formula). I started baby food at 6 mos old. She has vomited oatmeal and rice …

    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 …

    Click here to write your own.

    Related Resources

    Picky Eaters Solutions - Finally, realistic, practical picky eaters solutions for you, your child, and your family.

    Easy Recipes For Fussy Eaters - How will can I help my picky eater? You will find the solutions here... Clues to WHY they are picky, what affect it has on parent and child, many resources--including easy recipes for picky eaters!

    Recipes for Fussy Eaters - Finally there is a great place to find realistic, practical, fun, proven-to-work recipes for picky eaters. Discover the mystery behind picky eaters and the help you need

    Activities For Fussy Eaters - Finally, activities for picky eaters that work! If your way isn't working, you will find hope, validation, explanations and resources here for your picky eater.

    Fussy Eater Tips - A social worker with 11 years experience helping families, shares ten wonderful, specific picky eater tips that truly work.

     

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