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Picky Eaters

by Lauren Schrotenboer, MA, CCC-SLP

Do you ever get frustrated because your child only eats chicken nuggets, french fries, and fruit? Are you sick of forcing your child to try new foods? Let’s talk about some helpful strategies for all of your picky little eaters at home.


The first step of growing your child’s diet begins with exposure. Did you know that parents expose their child to new foods 3-5 times before giving up and concluding “My child doesn’t like it.”? Studies show children must be repeatedly exposed to new types of food before they begin accepting, or even preferring, those new foods.

Children are often affected by parental stress during mealtime. If you are stressing, or even rushing, your child during mealtimes, they are less likely to participate and expand their diets. That being said, don’t stress! Introducing new foods to your child should be an enjoyable process for both of you (parent and child). Don’t criticize, punish, or acknowledge your child for not wanting to try the new foods placed on their place. Remember, the very first step is simply exposing them to new foods. They don’t need to touch or eat it!

Exposure Activities:

  • Read picture books with vegetables in them
  • Garden with your child
  • Check out your local farmer’s market
  • Give your child options when asking them to put new foods on their plate. “Do you want a big or small scoop?”


  • Once your child becomes more acquainted with new foods through exposure, it’s time to begin exploring! In order to do this, you will need to think past the phrase of “Don’t play with your food.”
  • When it comes to expanding a child’s food diet, they are going to learn through their five senses. When exploring new types of food, be aware of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Ask the following questions:
  • What do you see? Color? Size? Shape?
  • What do you feel? Bumpy? Smooth? Hard? Soft?
  • What do you smell? Dirt? Something sweet?
  • What do you hear when preparing the food?

Explore Activities

  • Pretend Play. Practice making food in your toy kitchen. Play “restaurant” with your child having them take orders, prepare, and deliver pretend food.
  • Crafts. Be creative! Make a house out of carrots and asparagus. Create a floral arrangement with kale, celery, and other vegetables. Think outside the box!
  • Cooking. Have your child help you prepare dinner. There are cooking utensils (ie. knives, scissors) that you can purchase that are safe for children to use. Also have your child help you pack their lunch the night before.


  • When your child begins trying new foods (and even liking them), it’s time to expand their diet! Try adding more ingredients to main dishes. For example, you could add vegetables to a pasta dish or add new toppings to their favorite kind of pizza.
  • Begin presenting new foods to them in alternate settings outside of the home such as at restaurants, friend’s houses, or school lunches. This will show your child it is acceptable to try different variations of favorite foods in multiple settings.

Expand Activities:

  • Have a themed dinner to introduce cultural variations
  • Add spices to typical meals for a subtle change
  • Discuss which types of foods you used in a main dish. What kinds of vegetables are in the veggie lasagna? Let’s explore and try them all!

Introducing and incorporating new foods into your child’s diet can be a fun adventure if you have an open, positive mindset. It may feel like a long process to expand your child’s diet, but having your child consume healthy nutrients and have a positive perspective about food is worth it! Remember to have fun while exposing, exploring, and expanding new foods with your child!

Information obtained from the following source:

Potock, Melanie. “Parenting in the Kitchen: Home Strategies for Families in Feeding Therapy.” Colorado Speech-Language-Hearing Association Summer Conference, 5 August 2017, Children’s Hospital, Aurora, CO. Conference Presentation.


What To Expect: Parents

First visit: Your first visit is an opportunity for the therapist, child and yourself to meet prior to an evaluation or intervention. You are welcome to bring siblings and other family members to this visit. The therapist will take this opportunity to informally observe your child's communication and play skills ... Learn more »

What To Expect: Kids

First visit: You will be coming to visit me soon at my office. When you arrive I will greet you and we will have some time to play and get to know each other. I will show you where the games and toys are and you will be able to pick out a couple that we can play with together ... Learn more »