From the time we are born, our senses are constantly growing and changes. Our taste buds are developing as well as our desire to be independent. It may seem like a simple thing to eliminate the picky tendencies that arise but it can be so much more than that. It can become a major psychological change for the child.
While most children are simply “picky,” some have a sensory processing disorder causing certain tastes or textures to seem despicable and unbearable. With my children, I have experienced both the typical pickiness as well as oral aversion caused by SPD. So how do we know the difference? For most, it takes a trip to a specialist to determine, but we knew early on. With any food that was not completely smooth, my oldest would choke. For some, the earliest signs are a dislike for socks and shoes, or getting extremely upset on any type of mess (paint, food, etc) on their hands.
Other children may have allergies to foods that do not clearly present themselves. They may develop stomach aches or nausea and automatically have aversions to certain foods from it. At such a young age, they may be unable to communicate their pain, leaving the only “choice” to be refusal and reluctance of those foods. This is something we worried about with my youngest for a while. What if he felt we were forcing him to eat foods that made him hurt? Fortunately as he has developed his speech, we are able to work through this and determine what is going on.
But for those who are simply picky, there are a few things we can do to make it easier.
Eat with your child. Nowadays, it is too easy to fix something separately, eat a something different than your child, but it is so important to the well being of your child to maintain a habit of eating meals together.
Offer rewards. Rewards of a mini M&M or another small treat after a bite of disliked food may help put your child past the desire to fight that food. Once he or she accepts this method, change it to two bites for a treat, and so forth. Prefer not to give candy? Find something else your child likes such as mommy or daddy making a silly monkey face and noise. You’ll be surprised how a smile, happy attitude, and silly face can make a difference when you are on the verge of a breakthrough!
Give your child something to fidget with. I found that both of my boys both benefited from holding something in their hands as they took a bite of something they did not like. Once you work past your child fighting that food, you can move on to them self feeding. For those with SPD, it helps take their mind off of the food and give their brain something else to process.
For the older kids, a chore chart with meals could be added. At the age of 5, my son has a great appreciation for coins. He earns a nickel for each thing he completes on his chore chart and it is really a great motivator for him. We added meals to his chore chart and it gives that extra push to help him work past it.
Try to learn what makes your child tick. Each child is different and will respond differently. You know your child best and you can do it. Just keep trying and don’t give up. You are your child’s world and they need you more than anything!