This is our problem: We have 2,5-year-old toddler who is a picky eater. Furthermore, she rejects to eat so many different types of food! Meat on her plate is something that makes her screams over and over. This is not how it was a year ago. As she’s growing bigger, limitations in food choices are expanding. For a family who has meat served almost daily, this has grown into a huge problem. If you are reading this post, this is probably something that bugs you too.
I have looked up information on a number of sites owned by parents, educators and health workers to get some answers about this kind of behavior. And I learned this is more common than I thought. It’s called Sensory Processing Disorder (SDP) and in our case, it involves one of 8 senses – Oral.
SIGNS TODDLER IS HAVING AN ORAL SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
First thing I learned is that my toddler is showing signs of Oral Avoiding Behaviour (other types can be found in Oral Sensory System):
- avoiding certain textures of food (+)
- difficulty with new food (+)
- gags, chokes or drools often (-)
- difficulty using a straw (-)
- problems chewing or swallowing (+)
- avoids mushy foods (+)
Another thing I learned is that my child has crossed the line between picky eater and problem feeder in several categories:
- she has limited her food choices to less than 15 foods (at the moment she eats:  potatoes,  pasta – dry or with little sauce but nothing lumpy inside,  bread,  rice same as pasta,  soup only with noodles, no veggies,  French toast with eggs,  butter spread on bread,  fruit – apples and bananas,  pudding),
- she becomes emotionally upset when she is encouraged to interact with non-preferred foods,
- she refuses large categories of foods
- insist on foods being preferred in specific ways or will only eat a specific brand/style of food
- always eats food different than the rest of the family
- she has suddenly refused a food she previously preferred and never eat it again
ENGAGE THE WHOLE FAMILY IN MANAGING TODDLER’S EATING DISORDER
Several things we are going to try with our toddler to expand her food choices and more balanced diet:
- Change food she prefers in a way to add a bit of what she wouldn’t eat, maybe mixed in or chopped to small, undetectable size. It’s more likely she’ll try something well cooked and easier to chew and swallow.
- Change our daily menu for whole family to try to balance necessary daily intake of vitamins and minerals she looses rejecting meat (vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and proteins). We’ll try to include more dairy products, cereals, soy products, dried beans, eggs, nuts, dry fruit.
- Continue to put on a plate everything we eat but don’t put on her any pressure to try what she doesn’t want because it proves to be contra-productive.
- Introduce her more often to different textures through play (sensory bins). Play with food!
- Offer different meals every 2,5 – 3 hours. And replace candies and salty snacks with fruits.
- Get the whole family to talk only positive things about food in our plates and skip negative (even when there is unpreferred food served on the table).
These things we’ll try to do as a family, including my older daughter who is old enough to reason with and who can be explained that there are types of food we need to eat although we might not prefer it.
Parents should seek help with toddler’s Sensory Processing Disorder
We can recommend to start by reading an amazing book called Stories of Extreme Picky Eating where an author Jennifer Friedman invites you into her nutritional therapy office to meet real kids struggling with serious food aversions, and learn the strategies that helped them come to eat a wider variety of nutritious foods with more ease.
Find the book here: United States | Canada | United Kingdom
If a problem with picky eater becomes such that you, as a parent, notice that your toddler is losing on weight or doesn’t develop according to age, please make sure to consult your doctor!
What else can help with picky eaters?
You can try to make meal time fun with one of the listed items from Top 10 Items to Encourage Every Picky Eater!
Mum of One says
Thanks so much for linking to the Monday #pinitparty. I know Joy from PinkOddy blogs a lot about SPD too. You two should chat! Have pinned 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Some of that sounds like really good ideas. Be aware that SPD can be a variety of areas and it can change between too little and too much. It may not be oral it could be tactile, I wouldn’t advise mixing it up and trying to hide it – as sensory they may smell it, feel it etc.
Best of luck with it.
Hi Joy! And thank you for stopping by and taking a time to read through and comment. I think it’s a mix because she is totally avoiding certain textures plus she rarely chews anything. Just yesterday I watched her eat Spaghetti Bolognese, first time after 4 months. I have cut spaghetti on small pieces and mixed with sauce before serving (otherwise she would probably ask for dry spaghetti if she knew it was an option). She hardly chewed any! She just swallows it! Couldn’t believe it! I know I have a long way to go with her but I try to get myself educated as much as I can to help her through this. It will be a long serial of tries and misses. But, not giving up. 🙂 I will go through your site in next few day, there is much to read that interests me. 🙂