There are oral motor and sensory defensiveness desensitization programs, basic meal preparation activities for picky eaters, toys and therapeutic tools, as well as fun foods to make into all kinds of creations!
If I could get one point across it would be this ... stop trying to CONTROL your picky eater!
Sensory Defensiveness is real and Oral Defensiveness is horrible to have to live with. (Click here to find out if your child has oral defensiveness!) I beg of you, sympathy, rather than digging your heels in harder and harder forcing food down your little guys throat.
The good news is, you ARE searching for activities for picky eaters, which most likely means you are NOT one of the parents who try to control your kids eating behaviors to an extreme (if by chance you are, then thank you for opening up your mind knowing that what you are doing isn't working... there are other picky eater solutions!).
Are you looking for answers, suggestions and activities for picky eaters to HELP them? Do you want things to work better for your child and your family? Are you tired of the chaos, whining, and effects of this major parenting and family stressor? Then I say "kudos" to you for reaching out for help and looking for answers!
Often parents "lovingly" try to force feed their gagging kids because (as I have heard parents and professionals say), "he is trying to control you... he MUST eat whatever you put in front of him for him to develop normally and learn that YOU are the parent"!
If you truly have a picky eater, you will soon find out (or may have already found out), force feeding doesn't work! You will do more damage than good. But, I will also say this... it is a fine line, I agree. Sometimes it IS difficult to discern true "behavioral issues" from "sensory issues" (and I must admit, sensory issues can quickly turn into behavior issues). THIS is when you seek help from professionals... such as an Occupational or Speech Therapist who see this and deal with it every day!
Please understand these orally defensive kids have a lot of anxiety around food... in my opinion it should be treated as an "eating disorder!" They can truly develop phobias based on their defensiveness, or vice versa. Let's help them before this happens ( please?).
What kind of activities for picky eaters will help? Short of actually
engaging your child in an Occupational or Speech Therapy program for
desensitization (which I additionally highly recommend, if your child has oral
defensiveness!), you will find a place to start below.
If you have a picky eater there are three things you must do. They are in no particular order, (although #2 should come after #1); you can start with any of them!
1. Find out if they are orally defensive.
(Click Here For An Extensive Checklist)
2. Get an official evaluation by a Speech or Occupational Therapist who is knowledgeable about picky eaters, oral motor issues, and sensory defensiveness.
3. Read the article below, and the other picky eater articles on this website
by Jason Katzenback
Why does it seem that the pickiest of eaters always try to pass themselves off as the latest upcoming culinary critic?
On the other hand, some children have been known to prefer instant macaroni and cheese because they can fix it themselves, which gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
That is why I highly recommend letting your children help you in the kitchen with meal preparation. You see the more familiar your picky eater becomes with handling the food the more inclined they will be to taste it. "Get a stepstool and ask your kids to lend a hand in the kitchen with easy tasks," says Sal Severe, PhD, author of the book, How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too. "If they participate in helping to make the meal, they are more likely to want to try it," he says. This can include pouring ingredients into a bowl, draining the liquid from the corn, washing vegetables, or stirring the contents of a dish.
In addition, encourage your child to help with mealtime preparations by setting the table, folding napkins, clearing the table after dinner, washing the dishes, or other age-appropriate tasks.
Plan weekly menus together with your children, allowing them to be involved in the decision making process. That does not mean that mealtimes are planned around their expectations, but at least they will have a heads up if you are going to serve something new or different. You might even let your child pick one night where he can decide what the menu will be. Even if he just wants buttered pasta noodles and nothing else, you can still serve sauce on the side along with a salad.
Most important of all... Do Not Make Food a Major issue!
This will only lead to more serious problems in the future. As children get older they want independence, they want to be able to make their own decisions. If they start to feel that food is an area they have no control over then they will often try to take control, usually by becoming less open to new foods which can lead to more problems in the future.
Allow your picky eater to make their own decisions and allow them to be part of the solution!
© 2005 Jason Katzenback
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