Fussy Eaters: HELPING Your Child
Fussy eating is a phase of development that most families contend with to some extent. Fussy eating is very common in pre-schoolers as they are encouraged to eat a wider range of foods but they are also at the developmental stage where they are learning about independence and experimenting with saying ‘no’. However, many babies struggle when transitioning from breast or bottle to solids and this fussiness continues throughout preschool and into the schowol years.
There has been a lot of research on this topic and the points below can serve as a guide to when to get help.
WHEN SHOULD FUSSY EATING BECOME A CONCERN FOR PARENTS?
1. A child eats fewer than 15-20 different foods or less.
2. A parent mentions to a professional at 2 or more regular health checks (12 months, 18 months, 2-year health check) that their child is having difficulties with eating.
3. They refuse to eat from one or more food groups.
4. They refuse one or more texture type.
5. They regularly have tantrums and meltdowns at meal times. WHY ARE KID’S FUSSY EATERS? There are many reasons why children struggle with fussy or problem eating. These may include:
1. Mouth and chewing movements which are poorly developed.
2. Lots of children, even older children, struggle with co-ordination of the mouth, teeth, tongue or their swallowing skills.
3. Sensory processing. Many children physically can’t cope with the texture, taste, look or smell of food. Often they also don’t have the balance or postural strength required to be able to sit up easily to eat, or they may tire quickly.
4. Psychological stress. Some children develop very real stress responses to being with food. Watch for warning signs of them being distressed around food or moving their body away from food.
TIPS FOR FUSSY EATERS
The wide array of reasons listed above illustrate why it is important to understand first what is the underlying cause of the fussy eating. Once you know, then you can really pin point how to help. However, here are a few guidelines to point you in the right direction. 1. Make sure that your child is well supported when they are seated to eat. Make sure that their feet are resting on something secure, whether it’s a highchair foot rest, a box, or a stool. This is really important.
2. Make sure that their hips and knees are at 90 degrees, with feet sitting on something secure. This helps with children who have difficulty maintaining good posture.
3. Use a plain plate. Often parents buy a plate with their child’s favourite cartoon. Sometimes this works. But if your child is over sensitive to the visual look of food then this needs to be simplified. Choose a plain white or other coloured plate with no pattern or cartoon.
4. Encourage your child to serve themselves. Every small interaction with food is important.
For more great tips for helping fussy or problem eaters to eat, download our free tip sheet here.
Deb Hopper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller author. She is a practicing Occupational Therapist at Life Skills 4 Kids on the NSW Mid North Coast, Australia, she can be reached on her website.
Design Oleksandra Zuieva Words Deb Hopper