Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Turning My Picky Eater Around: An Easy to Follow Plan

It has been a while since I've talked about my second son, Isaac, and his own difficulties with eating. Some of you may remember the numerous Cooking with Your Kid posts where I talked about strategies I used with him. Or, the post I wrote, Practicing Patience, a more personal account describing the sheer frustration I felt as a mother trying to help my kid eat.  As an OT, I know that any child's eating has peaks and valleys, but sometimes the valleys can be a slippery slope into major regression.  *Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience.




We are definitely in a valley with Isaac now, with a few red flags of regression. I can't say I'm surprised. The last 4 months were challenging in my house, as I was extremely sick with my third pregnancy. I was barely functioning and our whole routine was thrown up in the air.  We My husband did his best to keep up with all of our usual feeding strategies, but combined with the shake up in Isaac's routine, he started refusing some of his favorite foods like rice and grapes. Not only did I see him refusing them, but when he tried to eat there were shutters and obvious discomfort.  Those are some of the red flags I was talking about. I knew we were going to have to regroup and come at the this with a strong plan in mind so that he didn't slip any further back.

I also have to admit that in the last year I've gotten lazy about some strategies that I know work, even before I was sick, which is why we may have been in a valley in the first place. Yes, I wished he was eating more foods, but he was doing decently and I had become comfortable enough with what he was eating.

Now that I'm feeling better and we are back to our regular routine, I really want to get him eating as well as possible, especially before the huge change of a new baby.  I thought it would be helpful to show all of you my line of thought as a therapist, but how this is going to work as a mom.  I often share one strategy at a time, but wanted to give you guys the big picture with all of the steps in one place so you can pull together a plan that works for you and your child. You will find highlighted links throughout to give you more information on topics I've written about in the past.

I am grateful to FunBites for partnering with me to bring you "My Treatment Plan". It's a perfect fit because FunBites also believes in helping children eat more nutritious and varied foods. They actually designed the cutter to help their daughter get over her picky eating. Click here and here for past reviews of FunBites and coupons. I'll be talking more specifically about how I'll be using FunBites as one of the strategies in my big plan in a few minutes.

The Scoop on Isaac

Isaac is 2 years and 9 months. As a baby, he was very slow to take homemade baby food and was fine with just a few bites. At 8 months he was still barely eating and the more I tried the more he refused. I felt pretty confident (and still do) that most of his eating difficulties were sensory based. I worked with him intensely for 3-4 months to get him eating.  I was pleased by 12 months and continued to maintain some basic strategies to keep improving his eating.

Maintaining the Basics

Here are the strategies that we have always tried to be consistent about for both of our boys:


  • Space Meals 2.5- 3 hours apart with nothing but water in between for optimal appetite. Count from the start of one meal to the next, this does include snacks.
  • Serve one food that is preferred (one you know they will eat) at each meal.
  • Expose him regularly to new or refused foods by at least having him tolerate them on his plate.
  • Keep mealtimes as positive of an experience as possible. This can be challenging at times and with a two year old, isn't always possible. We specifically avoid getting into power struggles over food or talking negatively about his lack of variety. That doesn't mean that we aren't frustrated at times, but we do our best to keep that from him.

Things We Have Gotten Lazy About (And Need to Start Doing)

This is wear my laziness shines through. I KNOW these strategies work. Besides chronicling them here, I get frequent feedback from consults and families I work with that these things can make all the difference.  But, I also know that I'm a mom with a variety of balls I'm juggling - just like you - and sometimes this stuff slips through the cracks.  When your kids eating regresses or it never gets off the ground, it doesn't always mean that you need different or new strategies, but you need to revisit things you know work and be consistent about doing them!  Here are some of the things we have slacked off on:


  • Strapping Him In - I know you may think this is overkill at his age, but for most kiddos it will save you a lot of needless aggravation.  Many toddlers don't have the attention span until after 3 and will just flee at a moment's notice. Isaac does say, "I'm all done and slides down," sometimes just minutes into the meal.  When we strap him in, it heads all this off and keeps him working at his dinner (his most difficult meal of the day) for much longer before we try and offer up some redirection. We have "lost" many meals because he gets down and it is too difficult to get him back without it turning into a major struggle.
  • Changing it up - Sometimes kids get stuck in a rut during a meal that doesn't start off on the right foot and a simple change can get them eating again.  This takes little effort, but we have gotten fairly inconsistent about some of my go-to change ups:
                           - Offering him another utensil
                           - Using a toothpick (when appropriate) 
                           - Pulling out a different dip
                           - Changing the shape of a food on the fly




Isaac using his favorite dip - BBQ sauce for his non preferred food of chicken that was cut into little squares with the FunBites cutter! 


  • Serving Family Style - This simple trick can change the whole mood of the meal - in a good way - and typically gets your kiddo interacting with the all the food in some way.  
  • Cooking Meals Together - I'm embarrassed to admit that I have slacked off on this. Early in Your Kid's Table's life I wrote about and practiced this A LOT.  Of course, this does take some planning on your end and depending on the child you may need to let them know early in the day that they are going to be helping - don't present it as a choice (You can present what they want to help with as a choice: Do you want to stir or help chop the broccoli?) . Since I have started to implement cooking together again recently, I'm overwhelmingly reminded of its sheer power! I'm not saying that your kid is suddenly going to sit down and eat up all of that potato soup he normally doesn't even look at, BUT maybe he will try it and not act like it is a bowl of poison.  That is what happened with Issac last week, he tried a few bites without a word from me after helping us prepare all the veggies and witnessing the complete assembly of the soup.  That is total success!!! 


Making chicken pot pie together.


Turning It Up A Notch

Most of these strategies I have used in the past and use regularly with the families I work with, but they require a bit more effort and planning. However, with a little organization all of these strategies are very do-able!

  • Daily Sensory Bins - I make this recommendation often and know that it is important. I kind of think of this as a good foundation to prepping their sensory system and helping it develop along. After all, these bins are great for any child, picky eater or not.  But, I think I may have underestimated its usefulness. Recently, one of the families I work with prepared a variety of sensory bins to play in daily and they really followed through.  Their son, who had some serious sensitivities to a variety of textures almost suddenly started to eat a wide variety of foods after months of weekly therapy.  It was one of the biggest jumps I've ever seen a child make so quickly - and sustain by the way.  So yes, I will be aiming for sensory bin play at least 4-5 times a week. For Isaac, the messier the better (think shaving cream and cloud dough).  If your child is still young and putting everything in their mouth see this baby safe list from Hands on as We Grow. Or, if you are even looking for more creative ideas see my Sensory board on Pinterest.

Large bins like this one filled with birdseed that kids can actually sit in will intensify the experience.


    • Playing with Food - That's right, playing with food! When mealtimes stall the best way to get kids reengaged is to model some interaction with food in a way that is comfortable for them and encourages them to imitate you.  You have to make time for this at the end of meal and put your creativity hat on to hook into your kids interest. My goal is to work on this 5-6 nights a week at least, because the more I do it the more improvement I will see. 

    • Using FunBites - The FunBites cutter makes small uniform shapes a breeze and kids with sensory and chewing difficulties love the clear, consistent, small pieces of food. It is easy to use and clean. Ultimately, it helps kids feel more comfortable with new or refused foods and with a big dose of fun. 

    Using the square cutter on a homemade chicken nugget.


    Up close of small chicken pieces which were much more manageable. Isaac tried a bite or two with BBQ sauce, which is good progress for him.



    • Building off Foods - We will be making a new list of all Isaac's foods that he eats and how to make our way towards some groups of foods he doesn't do so good with like chicken and vegetables. The idea is to start with something they like and start making small changes, slowly changing one food after the next until you build a bridge to a new food.  My goal is to try and think of tastes and textures that he is already moving towards or at least has some familiarity with. For instance, he eats sugar snap crisps (dehydrated) so I will work towards fresh ones and maybe green beans because they are similar in shape and color. I will serve them together and talk about their similarities and differences. It can take some time to reach your end game and obviously some planning, but it is a very effective tool.
    • Fun Presentations - Personally this is probably my least favorite suggestion.  It just isn't my thing and I get overwhelmed by it quickly.  Too bad, I know that green beans made into a sail boat is pretty motivating for kids, including Isaac. With tons of inspiration on Pinterest (See my Kids and Food board) it isn't too hard to think up some ideas.  I will be trying this 1-2 times a week because while it can be helpful in increasing the interaction (and hopefully consumption of) new foods, I also don't want to turn meals into a constant art exhibit. Kids need to see food in a variety of ways, not just in cool pictures.  My goal is to have something fun 1-2 times a week. Here is some inspiration from Little Nummies and The Pleasantest Thing.


    Little Nummies- A vast resource for more creative food staging.



    Whew, that's my plan. I hope that it wasn't overwhelming and if it was break it down into small manageable pieces, and you can follow the outline in a step by step manner if that is helpful... slowly incorporating it all together.

    See the article index in the menu bar for a ton more information on feeding kids and see the "Follow By Email" box at the top of the sidebar so you don't miss anything new!


    *If you live in the USA and your child is under 3 your state is required to provide a free in home feeding evaluationIf you feel like you need more help, are overwhelmed, or want a customized plan I am available for consultations.




    69 comments:

    1. My daughter in law and I both bought the Funbites cutters and were very disappointed. They don't cut well and the food sticks in them. We have found small cookie cutters work much better.

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      1. Thanks for the comment Loraine, I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience. I think cookie cutters work great too, especially if they are small. I have several of the funbites myself and if you use the insert it came with it allows you to easily push the stuck food out. Also, for stringy meats you do need to rock them back and forth with a lot of pressure. What I really like about the funbites is that the shapes are really small, which some kids really need.

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    2. Thank you for this post! My 3 year old is so picky and I honestly didn't know what to do. All of my kids were like this but my middle out grew it and eats well. However my oldest still has a minimal list of 3 foods and several fruits. If you have any tips for a 13 year old with the same issues please let me know!

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      1. There is a ton info on picky eating here, beyond this post. See the article index for even more ideas. A lot of these basics can be applied to a 13 year old as well. Instead of asking him to play with his food, talk about the properties from a science point of view (i.e.: how hard is it, how many times do you need to chew it, does it dissolve, etc.) Good luck!

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    3. Thank you for this post! I have been going crazy trying to get my son to eat. He used to be the best eater until he learned the word no. I am going to implement the sensory bins a lot more and try to be more patient with him. And the presentation idea looks great!

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      1. Thank you for the comment Nancy! By the way, kids eating will go up and down, it is good that he was a good eater. Stay consistent and keep offering those foods! Good luck!

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    4. I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I am SO excited! My sister is an OT and we talk about things like this all the time, but to have all of your knowledge documented and easy for me to reference is amazing!

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      1. Thanks so much for stopping by, and leaving such a kind comment! I really appreciate it! I put so much time into sharing this information for others.

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    5. Thank you for these tips! I am going to start right away implementing them. A brief history: my son had some feeding delays. He was sucking his food instead of chewing and swallowing and therefore gagged on most everything. He never picked up food off his highchair tray (still doesn't want to be messy) and it was not until 14 months that he started eating something chunkier than puree. He's moved past that with a little help from food therapy, but I fear we've skipped some steps in eating as a result he's somewhat limited in what he eats.

      Can you tell some language and strategies to use to encourage actually trying the food. I always offer a new food and my son, (now 3), will say, "No thank you," and I have always respected and want to continue respecting his "No." So, should I just wait for him to try these foods? Do I offer something in return for trying a bite?

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      1. I get my son to SMELL the food. And after that he can try a tiny bit if he feels like it. sometimes he does, often he doesn't.
        Also, anytime we have soup or pureed anything, I might include a tiny bit of something new - blended in. So little that I can't taste it consciously. And over several weeks/months, I add a tiny bit more everytime until I can taste it. It seems that this way his tastebuds get used to the new thing slowly, subconsciously. And then when I 'officially' introduce the new food some weeks/months later (and let him smell it again and again if needed) he is more likely to try it/like it. Sometimes to his own surprise :)
        And during a meal, apart from the odd compliment on the cooking (or similar), we do NOT talk about food, but on purpose talk about anything else, the more lighthearted and fun, the better. To get him away from the constant topic of food.

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      2. Hi Apryllee! I understand, but turn it around on him and say.. Okay, but what color is it, or what do you think it sounds like when you bite it? You could hide it in your mouth? Look, I can make mine fly like an airplane... You just want to get him engaged, start with easier tasks and don't spend too much time on this unless he is really getting into it. I totally agree with Yasmin's comment that it is good to talk about other things too.

        Yasmin- thank you so much for that very helpful comment, I love what you are doing!!!

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      3. Thanks! These are great suggestions I will try! Last night, we had good success with serving family style. He loved helping himself! We'll see if the novelty wears off tonight!

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    6. Hi, sorry, I was led here by Facebook as something informative to read before bed, and my son is also named Isaac :) ...but I was puzzled by this section: "...at 8 months he was still barely eating...I worked with him intensely for 3-4 months to get him eating. I was pleased by 12 months..." I struggle to see what was wrong here; children do not need food surely at this age and are just experimenting? "Under one, food for fun" etc. Interested in your views on this matter and why you were concerned as such a young age. My Isaac is approaching 13 months and hardly eats much and still has a lot of milk, but enjoys most foods he does and is growing like a bean stalk xo

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      1. I agree with this. 8 months is way too young to be worrying about a child eating a variety of foods. Most children have few teeth at that age. That's natures hint.

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      2. Thanks for your comments ladies and although I understand where you are coming from and there is some truth to what you are mentioning it is a huge red flag if you have an 8-9 month old that isn't interested in eating at all. There is a window of time between then and 11 months where children naturally and instinctively learn to chew, if they miss that window it can lead to many feeding difficulties. In some of the most extreme cases, I've seen kids end up on feeding tubes by two if there mother's milk dries up. Many of the consults I have are with parents that missed this window and now have a two year old that doesn't eat. Now, if your child is seeming to enjoy eating little bits and just isn't eating a lot, it is a different thing and I do believe every mom should trust their instincts. In my case, it was very clear to me as a mother and OT that there was an underlying sensory issue, and I have seen (as I talked about here) the sensory issues throughout. Gagging and shuttering at the sight and touch of foods is an indicator of this. Also, babies don't need teeth to eat, their gums are completely sufficient, although many people understandably think this. The first teeth they get and have for a while are the front teeth, which aren't used for chewing anyways. They should be chewing in the back and they may not get those teeth until 18months or later, you wouldn't want to wait that long. I hope I answered your question, SJ, if not please let me know.

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      3. Thank you for your reply and clearing the matter in my mind... I think my Isaac is just a small eater for now :)

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      4. Sorry but I disagree. We did BLW and my son had no interest until he was about 14 15 months hes 2.5 now and a great eater. Quite happy to try new textures flavours. So this missed opportunity I personally don't believe in. Even the health visitor and the GP both agreed thatas long as I was offering a varied diet they had no concerns. He wwasn't dropping 8n weight and he was reaching his milestones early.

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      5. Again, as I said in the post, I know baby led weaning for some kids, but I have worked with numerous kids that it has not and they are in feeding therapy as a result. I'm glad it worked for your child.

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    7. How about if you don't ALLOW them to be picky?????????????? You introduce, and if rejected, try again later. It's amazing to me how younger moms seem to think this is acceptable and the norm!! They are playing you and you write a blog about it.........really??? I'm not trying to hate, but just because your child doesn't do what you want, when you think he/she should or YOU would like, doesn't mean that you need to blog, facebook, act like it's the worst thing in the world happening to you!!! I have 2 kids, 4 step kids, and 4 grand kids. There has never been a reason for me to post the fact that my kids won't eat stuff..........ever!! Woman UP ladies........be a MOM and stop letting your baby/child rule your life!!! You can bet your ass that your Grand Mom did!!!

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      1. My first 2 children ate or at least tried everything. And i would see people talking about making separate meals for their kids. I thought it was nuts. But with the same parenting my 2 youngest have stuggled. They have ssensory issues. My 3yo will not eat any sort of meat except hot dogs (is it classified as meat lol). But i now understand how difficult it can be. All children are different. And all situations are different

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      2. I'm not sure how much you've read through the post, but many of these kids have serious underlying issues. As an occupational therapist, I see kids that have been put on feeding tubes because they have so much difficulty eating. Of course, in "typical" kids there are ups and downs to eating and staying consistent and re-offering is very important. Picky eating is a source of major stress for most parents that find there way here and although I write about other topics as well, I feel blessed that I'm able to offer some support and strategies.

        To the comment immediately above, thank you for sharing. It is all too easy to over-generalize and you couldn't be more right, every child is different. Thanks for sharing!

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      3. As childcare provider for 25 years, grandma of seven, and mother of five I've seen a lot. There are more children these days with sensory issues when it comes to eating. It is normally not the parenting, believe me I've seen it all. These are real issues and it is unfortunate there are people out there that would make ignorant and unhelpful comments like that. If like to encourage parents and other caregivers to seek help early if they believe a child is struggling with eating for whatever reasons.

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      4. I thought this way back when I was an expert on parenting (you know, before I actually had kids). Now I have a two year old who used to eat everything but has stopped eating all vegetables for at least 6 months now. I don't coddle him and offer a bunch of other foods instead, and I don't feed him junk food. I still put veggies on his plate every single day and encourage him to try them. I would love to know exactly what I should do to "woman up."

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      5. I understand what you mean by not letting them be picky, but there is a distinct difference in ones who are just being picky for an independence issue or those with a texture issue. My son is a picky eater, but when we have tried to force him to try certain foods, he literally would gag. Foods that my husband and I eat with no problem would cause him to gag. A friend of ours actually said it looked painful for my son. We have worked with him a great deal and do not feel as though I am less of a mom for not shoving it down his throat.

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      6. You are not less of a mom, sounds like you are doing great! Many people don't understand some of the underlying difficulties that can affect picky eating. You are so right, it is almost painful for some of the these kids. Hope this post helped you.

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    8. Thank you for the post. This is so my son and it has been the hardest thing about parenting. I think as a mom it is your basic instinct to feed your child. I have watched my son gagging and throwing up from eating and it is sad. I will fly food airplanes, and cut it into dinosaurs and stand on my head if need to, so that he will not get a feeding tube... as for the comment above, clearly never has been in this situation and lucky you, how about just don't read it, instead of leaving rude comments.

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    9. I get upset when people suggest I 'make' my son eat. Do they really think we are just lazy? If I put a new food in his mouth he either gags, shudders or vomits it up. Or he will keep it in his mouth for HOURS. If force worked no one would have this issue. Having a child who is a fussy eater is very stressful as a parent trying to juggle thehealth and wellness of 6 kids. Please don't suggest we are just not being tough enough... its like telling a parent of a disabled child they have just been too soft and the kid is just bunging it on!

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      1. I agree 100% with you. The previous comment was obviously from someone who has no experience with a child with sensory issues and was insulting...

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      2. I agree, my little one is disabled. He used to eat everything for the past year every mealtime is s struggle he has no speech and will literally throw the food, gag, vomit and become inconsolable. Some is the lovely independence struggle wanting to self feed without the co-ordination and upper limb stability to be able to do so. The rest is sensory, i have tried similar plans some days we have success others we don't the biggest help from the blog is knowing others are experiencing similar issues and that its not down to my personal failures as a mother, which is how it feels most days. Thank you for your blog.

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    10. Thanks so much for this post. My 2 1/2 yr old has always been a pretty good eater but has regressed a bit lately after we had a new baby. These suggestions are great and I will definitely be implementing them... Especially the sensory bins!

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      1. You are so welcome! Thanks for the kind comment!

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    11. Thank you for this post. I have a 6 year old daughter with a lot of sensory issues. She is an extremely picky eater still and gags very easily. I have struggled with this since she was very little. I will try some of these suggestions on her and hope it will improve her eating. Her pediatrician told me to make her eat atleast 2 bites of everything we offer... but that just does not happen because of the gagging and vomiting at times. I thought about getting an OT evaluation.. maybe that would really help.

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      1. I have to say that I would disagree with that advice. I think it is more helpful to expose and encourage the interaction as I described in the post. I would highly recommend getting a feeding evaluation.

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    12. I had 2 children 18 months apart, both feed and weaned in exactly the same way, child one ate everything offered, infact everything in sight! Child 2, was much pickier from the start, but I persisted. By the time she was 3 every meal time would result in a huge drama 'I'm not eating that' I ignored her, eventually she would return to the table and pick away, but if I attempted to get her to eat meat she would rather go hungry and not eat again until breakfast.

      Don't believe the 'they won't starve themselves' or 'they'll eat when they are hungry hype' she could easily go from breakfast one day to breakfast the next with nothing inbetween, which was not acceptable.

      When she was 5 I decided to try a week without giving her meat with her meals, it was like a miracle, no complaining, no fuss, cleared her plate every night, she has been vegetarian ever since, she is now 10.

      I have had all sorts of reactions most common is 'I should have made her eat meat', 'to let her become vegetarian at such as young age was wrong' or she is labelled as an extremely fussy eater, but she just doesn't like meat and her diet is far more varied than many of her friends, who are not considered so fussy because they do eat meat.

      She eats pretty much any fruit or veg I serve and is always willing to try new ones, eats rice, pasta, potatoes, dairy, all sorts of nuts etc. It was the best decision I ever made.

      Child no, 1 still eats absolutely everything in sight!

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      1. Thanks so much for your helpful comment. As I mentioned earlier I think it is important to trust your instincts. I wish as mothers we could all respect each other more often than we do.

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    13. Oh well, I just typed out a huge reply and got an ERROR when posting. Anyhow thanks for the post. I bet it will help a lot of people :)

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      1. So sorry for the error Joanne- glad the post was helpful!

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    14. Great post!! I have a daughter who will be 4 the end of September. She started having a difficult time with food about a month after I started giving her solids (11 months). She has a very sensitive sense to tastes. She was also speech delayed and had some sensory issues. I was a Special Ed teacher so I had her assessed for her speech delays at 20 months. She started receiving services in our home by a teacher and a speech therapist. After about 4 months of those services I requested a sensory evaluation because she seemed to be so sensitive to so many things. She qualified and started getting OT services as well. I also took her to a food clinic because I was concerned about her eating. They weren't as helpful as I had hoped. They basically said she didn't have a textural issue because she ate a variety of textures. So, here we are almost 2 years since she started getting services. I am proud to say her speech has improved so much and most of her sensory issues are no longer there, however, she still hates being dirty! LOL But, her eating has not improved, in fact I think it has gotten worse. Reading your blog tonight has come in the perfect time! I have been feeling at a lose of what to do with her. I tried to "force" her to eat and it didn't work and to be honest I don't want to have any more nights like that again....it was awful!! My thoughts are that she has a fear of food and she still has some sensory issues with food. She will ask about food and what we are eating and when she is ready she will ask to try food. But, it has to be when she is mentally ready. I am going to try these things that you listed. I know we need to try some new strategies. Thankfully, she is healthy and at a normal weight. Right now she is probably only eating 10 different types of food. She doesn't like sweets, juice, ice cream, cupcakes, or most "normal" kid food. She still eats baby food oatmeal with the baby food fruit mixed in it every morning for breakfast!! I tried adding a small teaspoon of regular oatmeal to it so I could slowly change it out and she took one bite and said, "I don't like it!". I'm telling you, she can tell even the slightest changes! Anyways, sorry for the long post! You blog has been encouraging and I'm feeling a little more hopeful in getting her to add some new food to her diet! :)

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      1. I think you have a lot of good insights here. I think implementing a plan similar to the one I described here will be really helpful. Good luck and let me know if you need more help.

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    15. Thank you so much for this post! It is so heartening to know others are going through exactly what I am. My child is not crazy! I am not alone! :)

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      1. Hang in there Yvette! I'm so glad you found your way because you are definitely not alone!

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    16. I love finding stories like this one. As a child, I was a very picky eater. I wouldn't eat fruits or vegetables of any kind (corn and potatoes don't count). The texture of these foods would cause me to gag. I always thought it was in my head. And of course so does everyone else. I knew that when I started having kids that I'd have at least one picky eater on my hands...turned out to be my first. When we started with pureed foods, I was excited because she ate pretty much everything we fed her. As she got older and started eating solid foods is when the problems started. At 18 months, I still have to puree her fruits and vegetables for her to eat them. Luckily, that's the only problem. But I've noticed that she gags on foods of different textures as well. I've been trying to slowly puree less and less, but if something is too chunky she just picks around it. She's started refusing new foods more and more. I just don't want her to get to the point I am...I still can't eat most fruits and vegetables...but I don't know what more to do.

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      1. The important thing is to stay consistent. Keep offering and keep everything about foods positive, her interactions, your comments, etc. It is normal at her age to become more picky as her taste buds develop more. Don't give up on foods she refused, keep offering them!

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    17. Thanks for this post. I have 3 picky eaters. Don't think it's sensory in nature...just good 'ole fashioned pickiness. ;) The consistent sized bites makes a lot of sense. My husband and I each cut up things differently and in different sizes so I can see how that would mess kids up. I will say: it makes me shudder to see whole grapes on a toddlers plate...they are notorious for serious (sometimes deadly) choking accidents. A tomato knife cuts them in quarters very easily and quickly. Same goes for hotdogs and carrots.

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      1. I don't mind different shapes and sizes unless you notice that your kids consistently do better with the small sizes. Sometimes it is good to experiment though and try other shapes, the novelty just might be the hook. I totally agree with the choking hazard and have been meaning to write a post on that. To be honest I just threw those things on there to take a quick pick, my younger one started refusing grapes 2 months ago so I knew in that moment he wouldn't touch them.

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    18. Thank you for this post. I have 3 year old twin boys that both have eating issues related to sensory problems. We recently moved and have had major food regression partly due to that. Also I loved that you wrote about how you got lax, it is hard to always be thinking about different ways to introduce foods and stuff. I've had a problem with with be lax /overwhelmed about it and have been trying to get a plan together to get them back on track. Thanks for the ideas!

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      1. It is so true Louise that you have to find this balance. Some days you have to let it go and sometimes other life circumstances prevail! Thanks for your comment!

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    19. How about if your child is 11 years old? Don't sweat it if your toddler is a little picky. My son ate fine at that age. Now he eats about 5 things. Cooking and shopping together doesn't help. Forcing him doesn't help. Not giving him options doesn't help. Hiding food in other food doesn't help.

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      1. You are kind of in different territory at this age. The variables are just different. It is interesting that he ate well when he was younger. Some of the strategies I talked about here may be applicable, but additional more tailored strategies would likely be needed. How concerned are you? Do you suspect any underlying issues, like difficulties with sensory processing? A private evaluation could be immensely helpful and at least give you some direction. Let me know if you need more help.

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    20. I have 6 children and the oldest was a "picky" eater but the youngest has major eating issues. He only eats some spicy foods, some fruit, and meatballs and bacon. By accident the other day his new babysitter gave him a hotdog (not realizing he has never eaten one even after it has been offered over 50 times). He ate the entire thing! It made me think that maybe someone else besides me offering a food he won't eat might be less threatening. So I tried it a few weeks later when his grandparents came to town. I specifically left at dinnertime and gave my dad instructions to offer him meat. He ate an entire plate of rotisserie chicken! We have gone years putting items on his plate with hardly any new foods being added. (especially proteins) I have a new strategy! :) I also agree with the fact that you are the mom and know best. Just because a doctor tells you to do something doesn't mean you have to do it. Glean from others what works for you in your situation. Every family and every child is different. Try new strategies but know that in the end you have to do what works for your family.

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      1. Thanks so much for your helpful comment. It is really supportive for other parents!

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    21. I ended up here via Longest Shortest Time and I just want to say thank you! What a resource you have created! We have a 3-year-old foster son who struggles mightily with eating. He has mild cerebral palsy and a repaired cleft palate, which, combined with his difficult early life, make mealtimes so hard for him. We have made some progress, and have had some good guidance from early support people and a nutrition/feeding clinic, but I'm always looking for new things to try. One of the most helpful things to read here is your notes on how long each of these things may take to "work." It's not something that can be fixed easily; it will take time. That's something I know deep down, but it's easy to forget and feel like you can just do this one thing and everything will magically be better. So, thank you for the reality check too!

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      1. Hi Sarah, thank you for your kind comment. I have to remind myself all the time that it is a process, that is why when they do something new, however small we need to acknowledge it as progress. Best of luck!

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    22. Any tips on getting older kids to eat better? My kids are 5 and 9 and it's STILL a constant challenge with them. I feel like I screwed up by not nipping this in the bud when they were much younger but I just thought they would outgrow it. My daughter (9 yo) won't eat much protein. It's a constant challenge to get meat into her. My son (5 yo) is a little better but not much. They are both great about fruits and veggies but protein is a big challenge for us. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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      1. It is a little trickier when kids are older and you are right you do need to use some different approaches, however 5 is still young enough for most of what I talked about here. Getting kids involved in meal planning and cooking can be really helpful, as well. Older kids will also buy into being "food scientists" and taking some "data" on new foods. Lastly, see the article index in the menu bar, I have a post there on how to get kids to eat meal that should help.

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    23. I am a parenting social worker in Australia and many of my clients have intellectual disabilities along with children with cognitive delays. All your tips are fantastic but my clients would find them too complicated and overwhelming to implement. I am wondering what your one or two absolutely top tips to follow would be in order to keep it really simple? Thanks :)

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      1. I totally understand! I would look at the eating basics tab, they should be able to follow most of those and they are really foundational to good eating. In particular focus on setting up a schedule where they eat every 2/5-3 hours with nothing in between but water. Second, eat together at the table.

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    24. Thanks for this. My eldest started refusing new foods around age 7-8 months. At age 8, he hasn't changed one bit. Since he could barely chew when it started, each new step was a struggle and all the standard techniques failed miserably. They only seem to work on normal childhood pickiness... and being told them like they will revolutionize my world by people who don't understand the struggles is beyond irritating at this point! I now tell people, "if your child didn't take at least a year to try a new shape of pasta, I don't want to hear your 'tip' because you don't know what I'm dealing with!"

      The biggest thing we struggle with is inability to do most of the standard suggestions. Forget "favorite dips" because mine won't touch condiments. Period. Forget putting peanut butter on it, they won't touch it. Forget adding soft cheese, they won't touch it. Putting it on pizza? Neither will eat pizza. In pasta sauce? Not that either!

      Did I mention their IQs are around 150? They are not fooled by things like "food scientist" (although that was a great idea).

      Our biggest food struggle is protein and fat. Aside from a tiny bit of cheese, I can't get much into them. Chicken strips work sometimes, but only for one of my two. Any advice in those lines would be GREATLY appreciated (links?). My kids are older - 5 and 8.

      One thing that has helped a tiny bit now that they are older is rewarding for trying ANYthing new. New cookie? Yup! New flavor ice cream? Yup! New activities count too. We have chore charts and "extra" stuff gets ten cents (most things get beads in the bead jar). So, trying a new food a day gets $0.70 a week. I also "forget" if it's been a while and will pay things they haven't tried recently.

      P.S. I found this via FB from a post by Happy Hooligans. So glad I did! :)

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      1. Hi Shannon, take a look at the tab in the menu bar for eating basics first, I do feel really strongly that all of these steps are a very important foundation for setting up better eating for picky eaters or problem feeders. See the articles listed at the end there as a good starting point. Also, in the menu bar is the article index where I have every post listed. Look for the post how to get your kids to eat meat for some additional strategies. Remember that all of the strategies I share take time and a lot of consistency. I'm so glad you found your way here!

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    25. This is a great article! I will definitely be trying the sensory idea. My son is almost 2 and still on formula. He used to eat baby food & yogurt melts all the time before he was 1 and just stopped for no reason. He is still on toddler formula for nutrition but will only eat cheetos, crackers, etc. Anything crunchy. Anything else I try, he gags and I can see discomfort. How would I go about this since he cannot yet tell me that he doesn't want anything and can only say some words?

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      1. If you are in the states I would highly recommend an early intervention evaluation, it sounds like he has some underlying difficulties. It is very common for me to see kids only want crunchy foods. Try to expand on that giving him a lot of different types. He could really benefit from exercises to help him learn to chew. You could also seek out a private therapist through your insurance and I'm available for consultations- no pressure. Let me know if you need more help with any of that.

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    26. My son is 2 year old he hardly eats solid food..its very difficult to feedhim rice and other solid food..moreover he vomits everythg he ate..so i am feeding him porridges that also he vomits sometimes he burps and after that vomit everythg

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      1. I would highly recommend talking to your doctor about this and if possible finding a feeding therapist. Please let me know if you need more help.

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    27. I dif fun presentations of all healthy foods for my one picky child and made it into cool things and called it fun friday or wacky Wednesday or terrific tuesday or whatever . I might make a story up about how his favorite dinosaur would love to eat the broccoli tree or whatever and for the most part it worked. We also let him pick out seeds and he helped plant them and when they started growing we would make a big deal about HIS veggies and then when they were ready he was more apt to eat them

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      1. That's great! Thanks so much for sharing!

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    28. Thank you!!! I think I've read your complete website by now : ) what a wonderful resource and REAL tips I can actually try - thank you! I've been hesitant in the past about always offering a preferred food - my girls eat plain pasta or rice and would love to keep it that way, but now I have a strategy - small steps and they will get the new foods on their plates and I'm sure they'll eat them one day : ) Last night I offered plain pasta as well as the tuna pasta bake the family was having. 3yo initially wanted the plain pasta but asked for the tuna pasta bake after she had some grated cheese (another preferred food). And ate it all up without commenting about the peas, corn and carrot in it!!! What a great start : ) (Let's not talk about the 5yo who started with the tuna pasta bake and changed it for the plain pasta after 3 bites-lol! Sometimes I think they do the opposite from each other to assert their independence... Perfect example is burritos - 5yo has meat, 3yo has tomato, lettuce and cheese : )

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      1. That's great! Thanks so much for your kind comment. Sounds like you guys on the right track!

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    29. I need help for a 6, 9 & 13 year old! Seriously =) I see posts like this and get excited, but it's always for young kids. I need help for older kids!

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      1. Hi Erika, yes most of the information on here is geared for 6 and under, but many of the strategies and foundation types of things I'm talking about can be applied to older kids. Also, scroll through the above comments because there are a few other ideas for older kids. If there are underlying sensory issues with older kids they still need to be addressed. Maybe the sensory bins can be combined into art projects or as part of more productive activities. For example instead of a bin of dirt maybe they help plant some new flowers. I think I need to write a post for older kids!

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