Parents of picky eaters often worry that their child isn’t getting enough nutrients to support their development.
After all, it’s hard to make sure your child is eating from all the food groups when they only like chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and French fries.
At Little Feet Pediatric Therapy, we offer pediatric occupational therapist near me services.
In particular, we know how frustrating it can be to get your picky eater to try new foods.
In this article, we’ll talk all about picky eating and what you can do to help encourage your child to eat a variety of foods.
Keep reading to hear more about picky eating in childhood and how pediatric therapy can help.
Is It Normal For My Child To Be A Picky Eater?
Most children are picky eaters are some point during their childhood.
Children are entirely dependent on their parents at birth, but as they grow they begin to assert their independence.
This starts in small ways, and continues as they grow older.
One of the earliest ways that your child can assert their independence is by telling you what they do and don’t want to eat.
What Causes A Child To Be A Picky Eater
Children become picky eaters for a number of reasons.
For instance, some children mimic the picky eating they see in their parents.
That’s why it’s so important to model healthy eating habits around your child.
Other children, such as those with autism spectrum disorder or sensory processing disorder, develop picky eating habits due to taste, smell, and texture sensitivities.
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Do Parents Create Picky Eaters?
Parents can sometimes subconsciously encourage picky eating in their children, but this is not something to beat yourself up over.
This is typically due to parents falling to societal pressures or following norms from how they were raised.
Some of the ways parents create picky eaters include:
- Creating negative food experiences by pressuring your child to eat foods they don’t want
- Letting your child fill up on drinks before and during meals
- Bribe, punishing, or rewarding your child’s eating behaviors
Is Picky Eating A Part Of Autism
Most picky eaters are not created by their parents.
For instance, autistic children often exhibit picky eating due to autism related feeding issues.
A 2018 study found that an estimated 46 to 89% of autistic children experience picky eating due to feeding issues.
One of the causes for picky eating in autism is sensory issues.
Many autistic children can only tolerate a specific texture, color, or temperature of food.
Despite the link between picky eating and autism, it’s important to note that your child being a picky eater doesn’t necessarily mean that they are autistic.
What Is The Age Range Where Picky Eating Is Most Common?
Picky eating typically develops between the ages of 2 and 4.
During infancy, children are more willing to try new foods.
Therefore, picky eating usually doesn’t occur until your child reaches their toddler years.
Do Kids Grow Out Of Being Picky?
Most children will grow out of picky eating.
However, this isn’t always the case.
Picky eating includes a wide spectrum of behaviors making no two picky eaters exactly the same.
Some children need to be constantly worked with to help discourage picky eating.
Research shows that it typically takes anywhere from 10 to 20 tries to get your child to like a particular food.
Therefore, it’s important to continue to expose your child to new food and encourage them to try it.
5 Tips For Picky Eating
Now that you know a bit more about picky eating, let’s take a look at some occupational therapy approved tips to deal with your picky eater.
1. Don’t Force Them To Eat If They Don’t Want To
Some parents believe that forcing their child to eat will solve picky eating.
But this isn’t the case.
Research shows that forcing food doesn’t actually make a child less picky.
It can, however, cause them to associate food with anxiety and frustration.
Additionally, forcing your child to eat food can cause them to struggle with their hunger cues.
This can lead to confusion surrounding their appetite as they grow up, and may lead to disordered eating as teens or adults.
Therefore, it’s important to avoid forcing your child to eat.
If they say they’re not hungry, believe them.
2. Talk About Their Food With Your Child
Talking about their food with your child can help them focus on things they do like.
This can include color, shape, texture, and smell if they don’t like the taste.
Additionally, it’s important to be cautious of the types of words used when talking to your child about food.
Avoid using words like “yuck” or “gross” and instead describe how the food tastes.
And of course, it’s very important to practice what you preach.
Seeing you eat the foods that you’re talking about can encourage your child to try some as well.
3. Get Your Child To Help With Meal Planning
Children like to do things themselves.
It helps them gain ownership over the situation and allows them to assert their independence.
Consider letting your child help pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, help cook the meal, and help set the dinner table.
When children do things themselves, they may be proud to try what they make.
4. Maintain A Routine
It’s no secret that children thrive on routine.
Your child’s sleep schedule, play time, and skill development all happen on a routine.
Their meals should be no different.
Aim to serve meals and snacks around the same time every day to establish a routine.
Add them to your child’s visual schedule, if you’re using one.
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It’s also a good idea to offer food to your child every few hours throughout the day.
This gives them opportunities to eat rather than grazing and filling up on snack foods only to lose their appetite come meal time.
5. Make It Fun For Them
Children are more willing to try things that seem fun.
Thinking about the presentation of your child’s food can do wonders for getting them to eat.
For example, cutting foods into fun shapes with a cookie cutter or making a smiley face out of different food items can have a positive impact on your child’s eating.
Give your child the opportunity to sprinkle their own toppings, such as seasonings and herbs.
This can help them to feel in control of the foods they eat.
If your child doesn’t like the food you present to them, try asking them how you can make it more exciting.
Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Pediatric Therapy Today
At Little Feet Pediatric Therapy, we’re committed to helping you make the best choices for your child’s health.
If your child is a picky eater, they may need some extra support – we’re here to help.
Book your appointment with Little Feet Pediatric Therapy today.
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► 1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
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Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.