This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small commission. Please see my disclosure policy here.
Does your child have Autism or sensory issues? Is your child a really picky eater? Do they completely freak out when you try to introduce a new food? Do you struggle with finding ways to help them take their medications? You are not alone! Here are some ways we have learned over the years to help our son with eating better.
Let’s Start with the Don’ts
- Don’t try to force feed your child or trick them into eating something they don’t want to eat. You want your child to trust you, and this is a great way to break that trust.
- Don’t try to “out stubborn” your child. Having a two hour long stand off at the kitchen table, or punishing your child for not eating their food, will only result in you and your child being miserable.
- Don’t get discouraged if this is a long process, or if you experience setbacks after finally getting some results. It will get better, and you will also learn to chill out over the years.
Eat Dinner as a Family
This is something that can be a struggle, especially when you have a child who is resistant to foods and eating with the family. One of the best ways to help your child with food anxiety is to have them see their siblings and parents eat foods that they are nervous about or don’t like. This does not mean they will want to EAT those foods, but it helps to make these foods seem normal.
Note: This is not the time to say See…your sister is eating the food, and it’s fine… Just let it be and enjoy your meal together as a family.
Play Games with Foods
One thing we learned in feeding therapy was to use a chart with each new food. We used a choice chart where a child can choose what they want to do with a new food. The deal is that the child needs to try the food in some way ten times before they can decide they don’t like it. Giving your child the power to choose what happens can help them feel more in control of the situation. If they know there is a choice or even a small prize they are more inclined to cooperate.
Let Them Cook with You
Kids love to help with cooking, and while it makes for a bigger mess, it is a great way for your picky eater to have the opportunity to be exposed to new foods. My kids all love to help with cooking and baking. One of the coolest things that we found was a kid-safe knife set on Amazon. Even if they still don’t want to try the food, you are exposing them to new foods. It will eventually pay off but keep the pressure off, they will try more foods when they are ready.
Give an Incentive
One of the best ways to get a child to do something that they are nervous about is to offer an incentive. Make a chart or a checklist for them to check off when they try a new food, touch a new food, taste a new food, or in some cases even having a food on their plate. Once they have a few checks or stickers, let them have a small prize. Maybe they get to make their favorite food for dinner, or they get a dollar bin prize. It doesn’t have to be anything big, and you usually already know what will motivate your child.
Let Them Make the Choice
When you are planning your meals or thinking about what your child might eat, let them choose what they would like to try. Now sometimes this can backfire- like when your kid chooses Coke and you are sure they will hate the carbonation, and they wind up loving it. BUT this also gives them some control over the situation. This will take some of the anxiety out of the situation and make for a more cooperative kiddo.
A Note On Medications
Over the years we have tried many different ways to get our son to take his medications. It has not always been easy. Taking medications is one of his least favorite things. He hates the texture of applesauce, so we have had to get creative to find the best way for him to take his medication. Here is what has worked for us so far:
- Bananas: Thinly slice the banana and place a little mediction on one slice and then place another slice on top like a sandwich. This is a great way if your child likes bananas because they can’t taste or feel the meds.
- Cut open an ice cream sandwich and put the medication in the middle.
- Cut open a piece of a rice crispy treat and put the medication in the middle.
Finally- just remember – this is a PROCESS. Sometimes it is a long one, and sometimes there will be setbacks. Don’t lose patience, and know when to push and when to back off. Make sure that you give your picky eater lots of praise, and tell them how proud of them you are for trying new food. Finally, there is professional help available. Feeding Therapy is available at most agencies that have a speech therapist, and often if it is deemed necessary, insurance will pay. Talk to your child’s therapist or pediatrician to get more information.