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  • Brittany Schock, MS,OTR/L

Is your PICKY EATER waging WW3?

Do you have a Picky Eater? Do mealtimes feel like you are waging WW3 at the dinner table? If you are making a different meal or preparing food differently to get your child to eat or your child only eats chicken nuggets, but not grilled chicken.....You may have a PICKY EATER. Your child should eat a variety of foods from each of the 5 main food groups with mixed consistency foods such as milk and cereal or a hotdish.  If they pick out and only eat parts of it...... We CAN HELP!!

Eating is one of the most physically complex tasks that human beings do! (it takes 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves to coordinate eating) & it’s the ONLY task that requires us to use ALL 8 of our sensory systems! Our Occupational Therapist is here to help you and your child through this process.



Many people believe that eating is instinctual and that no matter what happens, a child will eat.  Actually, instincts only start the process; however if your child was premature, was late at achieving developmental milestones, has sensory challenges, or any other physical disorders, even the instinct of eating can be impaired. Eating is, in reality, a learned behavior. Just as children have to learn to eat, children can be taught to not eat by the circumstances of their lives and environment.  So, how do we teach children to eat? The overall goal of all treatment with children who won't eat is to create an environment that positively reinforces normal, healthy eating patterns. 

Did You Know?

Eating is the MOST complex physical task that human beings engage in. It is the ONLY human task which requires every one of your organ systems, and requires that all of those systems work correctly. In addition, EVERY muscle in the body is involved (one swallow for example, takes 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves to coordinate). Plus, eating is the ONLY task children do that requires ALL 8 of their sensory systems be activated. Learning, Development, Nutrition and the Environment all play a crucial role in making sure a child is able to eat correctly. Most think eating is a simple task, take a bit of your food and eat it! But there are actually about 32 steps  in the process of learning to eat! 

Some Red Flags:

-Aversion or avoidance of all foods in specific texture or nutrition group. For example  applesauce, yogurt, pudding, etc. OR mixed consistencies; such as cereal, hotdish, etc. Children should be eating a variety of foods, from each of the 5 main food groups, along with mixed consistency foods

- Mealtime is a battle, is not enjoyable, or you are always having to make something separate for your child

- Food range of less than 20 foods, especially if foods they once ate all the time, now they don’t eat them at all. If they are not willing to even try new foods and/or are not adding new foods to their diet.  

- Parent repeatedly reports that the child is difficult for everyone to feed 

What Occupational Therapy Can Do?

Occupational therapists are able to assess and determine what may be causing them to have eating difficulties. Maybe they have poor oral motor control, meaning they have a difficult time controlling and using the correct muscles to chew food. If this is the case, they may just be avoiding that food that is hard for them to eat. Maybe they are having difficulty with all of the sensory input from eating and we would focus on desensitization. All of this is done in an encouraging and FUN way for the child. We want eating to be enjoyable for them and the family! 

Please feel free to contact our occupational therapist for any further questions or concerns. We are here for a resource and are happy to help! 

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