Picky Eaters: Tips for How to Overcome & When to See A Professional
By: Ashley Godwin, CCC-SLP
Mealtime can be an especially stressful time for families who have a picky eater at home. It can be difficult on the parents because they want to be sure that their child is getting the nutrition that they need, it can be difficult financially because food costs money and it is frustrating when it is thrown away, and it can also be difficult on the siblings because it can seem unfair that the child who is a picky eater gets a “special” dinner different from everyone else’s. I have a few tips for mealtime that can be helpful if you a have a child who is a picky eater:
MAKE FEEDING FUN:
- use only positive reinforcement,
- be creative with food and use cookie cutters
- build structures/animals,
- use food coloring,
- use fun forks or blunt end toothpicks to pick up the food
- make mini versions of food (ex. sliders, mini pancakes, etc.)
- rearrange the seating at the table
- have picnics
- let the child choose fun placemats
- If your child is older you can have them help plan the menu, pick out food from the store, and help cook!
Do not force feed or give negative attention to the child. Refusing to eat leads to stress. Punishment or yelling can lead to more refusal.
Praise the positive and ignore the negative. For instance, while your child is eating or not eating (even if it is a preferred food) give them positive reinforcement (ex. I love how you are sitting with us! Good job touching the new foods! I like how you tried one bite!). When children see that mealtime can be a fun experience then they are less likely to give parents a hard time about coming to the table for meals.
Make sure your child can be successful at each meal. There should ALWAYS be one accepted food for your child at mealtime. You are responsible for what, when, and where. Your child is responsible for how much they want to eat.
Have family mealtime one time a day (at least). Eating together gives your picky eater an opportunity to try new things as they are constantly being exposed to the look, sight, sounds, and smells of foods.
If you feel like you have tried the suggestions listed above for a few weeks and have noticed no change, if your child is starting to drop preferred foods, and/or if your child eats less than 10 foods in each of the following categories: starches, proteins, fruits/vegetables, and limited consistencies it might be time to see a professional.
Ashley Godwin is a Licensed Speech Language Pathologist at Child & Family Development. Our office provide services to children with developmental, neurological and congenital impairments. Services can be habilitative (learning a skill for the first time) or rehabilitative (becoming proficient at a skill or relearning a skill). We focus on a child’s ability to enjoy and interact with his environment. Typical focus areas include communication, articulation, auditory processing, voice/fluency and oral movements for speech and eating. Schedule a free phone consultation with a Speech-Language pathologist. We are open and offering services in-office and virtual office visits for some services.