Many parents experience the woes of picky eating at some point in their child's development.
A child's negative eating behavior can adversely affect the mealtime experience and can have a
detrimental effect on the child's health and development. There are a number of strategies that can be utilized to best manage picky eaters, including:
- When introducing a new food, it's OK if your child is not ready to eat it. Try encouraging him to interact with the food in a less invasive way. Consider introducing a food interaction hierarchy for introduction of novel foods. Gradually progress through the following levels: tolerating on the table/plate, touching, smelling, kissing, licking, biting, chewing, and swallowing.
- Create eating tasks that are challenging yet accomplishable so that your child can experience success. For instance, with a novel food, encourage your child to start with kisses and licks instead of bites.
- Gradually increase demands of eating tasks over time. For example, while your child’s first interaction with a novel food may be taking five licks, her next interaction may be two bites.
- Introduce an “all done” bowl. Do not allow your child to leave the table until all of the food on his plate is either ingested or interacted with (pick up, kiss, lick, etc.) and placed into the all done bowl.
- Continue offering new foods many times, even if these foods were refused in the past. It may take children longer than expected to become comfortable with new foods. Be patient and persistent.
- Verbally praise all positive mealtime behaviors. These can include sitting at the table, picking up a spoon, tasting a new food, or taking bites of a preferred food.
- Ignore any negative mealtime behaviors. These include verbal protesting, pushing foods away, letting food fall to the floor, etc. Use timeouts when necessary in the event of disruptive mealtime behaviors.
- Use a timer or visual schedule to encourage your child to stay at the table for the duration of the meal.
- Make sure that all family members are on board with strategies used at home. The more consistent the mealtime rules and routines are, the more effective they will be in promoting positive feeding behavior.