I’m sure if you are having concerns about your child’s picky eating, you are most likely seeking ways to help improve it. You are not alone. Many families experience issues with picky eating and are impacted significantly because of it.
The problem with finding answers to help with picky eating is that everyone feels as if they are experts and there are many opinions about it. Each generation and culture has their own ideas how to deal with it, each person has their own experiences as well. Have people told you not to feed your child and that they will eventually eat? Or maybe that you’re too lenient with them or too being too strict with them, or what we hear most often is..they’ll just grow out of it. Lets face it, we’ve all probably tried at least 1, if not a few of these well- intended strategies of how to manage picky eating. But, what I am sure you have also discovered is that, these usually tips only lasted for a few mealtimes and then it was back to the same old routine of picky eating unfortunately it may now be even slightly worse.
We want to tell you a few things to try at home that you can do now so that you can be on the right path of eliminating picky eating.
One of the reasons it occurs is because a child’s mouth is hypersensitive to any thing that comes near it. Is brushing teeth a battle? Do they hate having their mouth messy? These are all symptoms of oral hypersensitivity. To deal with this, try using an oral warm up prior to meals. Try cheek massages, or using a vibrating toothbrush outside and inside the mouth, this helps with desensitizing your child’s mouth.
Picky eating can also occur due to learned poor mealtime behaviors. The child may throw food, spit it out or even gag themselves, and parents respond by avoiding the food ever again or even letting them be done with mealtimes. This results in a negative reinforcement for the child. He learns, if does a behavior such as spitting the food out, the food gets removed from his plate, and then he does not have to eat it. Essentially, what the child wanted to happen does, because they don’t have to eat the food and thus they keep doing it with every new food. To combat this, you always want to keep mealtimes as positive as you can, especially when introducing a new food. This is done by ignoring the bad, and bringing more attention to the good. So take the pressure off of you and your child and reward him for just having a new food on his plate. No expectation of eating the food, the goal is simply to have him be okay with it on his plate.
Another reason, why picky eating occurs is because mealtimes aren’t as structured as they used to be. In this day and age, children often have multiple activities to attend to, parents get home later than they once did, and routine mealtimes have fallen by the way side. Therefore, children like to stick with what they are familiar with and what they know. So what can you do? Have structured mealtimes. Yes! Make mealtimes a priority for you and your family, and make it be routine. Similar to having soccer every week at 500 pm, mealtimes always need to be eaten together as a family at a certain time, every day. Whether it is breakfast, or dinner, do what works best for your family. Mealtime expectations need to be created; such as the amount of time the child is required to sit; where the child sits; and the least amount of food the child is expected to be consume prior to leaving the table. Its all about routine, routine, routine, which leads to multiple exposures to different foods.
Hope these tips help get you on your way to a new path to addressing picky eating.