When my boys were younger, neither one ate any food that was orange in color. Not oranges, no Cheetos, not even Goldfish. In fact, I used to buy the rainbow Goldfish for Noah and Judah. Both boys picked and ate all the red and green goldfish and left the orange ones. Funny. Today, Judah picks out all the red and green ones and will only eat the orange Goldfish crackers! Funny how we change!
Noah used to eat almost anything I put on his highchair tray. After the age of two, that changed. His taste grew extremely limited. There were foods he couldn’t even tolerate to see on his plate, let alone consider touching it to his tongue.
Here’s what we did:
First, to get visually acclimated to a non-preferred food item (ie:peas), I placed a couple peas within sight, but not on his plate. After a few meals, when the sight of the peas didn’t bother him, I moved them closer to his plate until the peas were almost touching. Once this proved to no more be an issue, I moved the peas onto his plate. At first, this was difficult because not only were the peas in his space, they were touching the same space as his chicken, which he loved.
The next step was a biggie for us. I gave Noah less chicken and placed one pea on his plate. As I sat next to him, I told him he had to eat that one pea in order to get more chicken. Just the one pea. He ate all the chicken on his plate and was far from satisfied, but before he could have more, he had to eat that pea.
“First, eat the pea, then you can have as much chicken as you like. First, peas; then chicken.”
I continued sitting next to him modeling eating the peas from my own plate. Not making a big ordeal, I just kept eating my peas and reminding when needed, “First peas; then chicken.”
Noah understood. Eventually, wanting more chicken so badly, he ate the pea. He didn’t love it, but Neil and I gave high praise and immediately served more chicken onto this plate.
“Great job, Noah! You did it! Good boy, eating your peas!”
This doesn’t mean that he ever developed a love for peas. He still doesn’t like them, but he will eat one if he’s asked. I don’t need for him to love or even eat peas just because they are served. I just want him to try it if he’s never had it before. Sometimes, he needs to be reminded that he likes a certain food, if he’s not had it in awhile.
Judah, on the other hand, has more severe sensory issues. One evening, I decided to work on mashed potatoes. I knew he didn’t like them. He didn’t mind the sight of them, but he wasn’t going to eat them. One way to help desensitize a tactile resistant child with certain foods is to allow food play. When I was growing up, playing with my food was never an option, but if it would help Judah be able to eat more foods, then why not?
I scooped some luke warm mashed potatoes onto his plate and began drawing shapes and sculpting figures. No way would Judah even touch them! All I wanted was for Judah to just “try” them by feeling what they felt like on his finger. Eating was for another day.
“Here, just touch them, Judah.” I scooped a tiny bit of potato onto his finger, hoping he’d get into designing shapes with me. As soon as the tip of his finger touched the potato, he gagged. “Okay, Judah, potatoes are definitely not your thing!” I’ve never made him play with potatoes since!
- Allow your child to become visually “okay” with whatever food he resists
- Use a preferred food item to encourage a taste of a non-preferred food item. “First, ___; then __.” Once he tries the non-preferred food item, give LOTS of praise and reward with favorite/preferred food!
- Try playing with the food that causes resistance. Sometimes feeling the texture with fingers can help desensitize the resistance enough to try tasting
- Be patient, patient, patient! Don’t force or rush. Think how you would like it if someone tried forcing you to eat a food that looked and smelled unfamiliar. Take it slowly
- If your child ends up truly not liking the food offered, don’t worry about it! Everyone has food he or she doesn’t like. At least you’ve offered the opportunity to try it!