Encourage Eating

When my Sensory Seeker was younger I wrote about Fussy eating. Since then we discovered that he has Sensory Processing Disorder, so encouraging him to eat food was not going to be as easy as we first thought. The thing to remember is that are lots of different senses at work when it comes to food. Writing down what he would eat made us feel better as the list was actually a lot longer than we first thought. Trouble is depending on how that food is presented can be a key factor in whether your Sensory Seeker (or avoider) will eat. With me I have found it is a lot of trial and error – maybe keep a diary.

encouraging eating

Our Sensory Seeker prefers food to be cold and he does not like foods to be touching. We found that a segregated plate helped, so that he could visually see that the foods were not touching. At a party someone asked if he wanted a cheeseburger but then put it on his plate on top of tomato ketchup. He just would not eat it. Now it’s not even that he does not like ketchup on his cheeseburger, and if he had put the two together that would have been fine. I have long since learnt not to try understand the logic behind how he behaves but just to try and best help him. In this instance I got him another cheeseburger (without ketchup on the bottom). Similarly he will not even try to eat toad-in-the-hole – but loves both sausages and Yorkshire puddings.

encouraging eating kids co-op

To encourage eating we tend to put at least one food on his plate that we know he does like, and one that is new, or we would like him to try. We often use bribery (pudding/computer games etc) rewards to encourage him. We start slowly – maybe getting him to touch the food for several presentations, then lick it, before eating a small piece. We pick our battles. So although we would love him to use cutlery we have decided that stretching his diet is more important for us at this time. Or if he wants to play with the food, and smear it over himself first, we tend to let him do that too – as we know it can result him in eating more. We do have to be careful that he does not stuff too much food into his mouth though – especially hard foods such as raw carrot. We have managed to get more foods into our Sensory Seeker by him seeing them as a treat – such as pancakes and bananas for breakfast.

encourage eating kids coop

Things to consider about mealtimes  for the child with Sensory Processing Disorder:

  • What smells are around – from food, other people and the general environment?
  • What is the temperature like – again from food, for the child, and in the environment?
  • The appearance of the food – how does it look? Do the foods touch each other? Is it clutter on the plate? Our Sensory Seeker will not eat chicken roll that has bread crumbs around the edges – even if you remove it first.
  • What colours – is your child with Sensory Processing Disorder under or over stimulated by the colours of the food or their environment?
  • The textures of the food – is it lumpy, smooth etc?
  • Is the food cooked? – Our Sensory Seeker loves raw carrots but will not entertain them cooked.

If you have any more hints, tips, problems or ideas please add them in the comments below.

51 thoughts on “Encourage Eating

  1. My youngest is fussy, but that’s how I was as a littlie and I know from experience that forcing them to try/eat things they don’t want to only makes it far worse in the long run. I know she’ll grow out of it and try new things when she is ready x

  2. A really great resource for those who have children with sensory issues – and handy too for fussy eaters. Thank you for sharing x

  3. my son has always been a pain with eating, I have now got him to take fruit to school and eat it on the way instead of sitting at a table eating breakfast with others as he pointly refuses , he wont eat a meal but when the other 6 are at school he sits at the table with me for dinner perfectly , i honestly think he can not be bothered with their noise but slowely the teatime meals are working

  4. I have never heard of this before but it’s wonderful information and i love the idea of making pictures and shapes out of food x

  5. There are some fabulous tips here but I think the best is not to try and understand it but learn how best to help and work with your child. This goes for all children too as we have problems with food touching and stuffing too much in the mouth and my little one likes food to be warm or cold rather than hot. It is definitely true that if you build something up as a treat they will eat more. I managed to get my son to eat leeks and peppers this evening as I put them in pancake batter and made a savoury pancake. He hates leeks and peppers but surprise, surprise he likes these savoury pancakes!

  6. We have the same issue. T will only eat the crusts of bread, nibbles the edges of most foods, likes crunchier foods and nothing can touch. He’s been really bad of late wanting to eat about three foods but has just started being interested in what we are eating and wanting some. If we rush and then serve him some on his own plate, he won’t eat it. So we let him mooch off us and then he will eat. Oh the confusion sometimes!

  7. I find it difficult to get my children to try new things, I love the idea of using a segregated plate, I might try that!

  8. Isaac is such a fussy eater. I am going to try and make some pictures out of his food to see if it help

  9. Great tips! My kiddo does not like to eat hot food, have his foods touching, or have foods mixed together like in casseroles. His picky eating style is part of the reason I started making him story themed lunches for school. He tends to eat more when his food is presented in an interesting manner. Thanks for including a link to my lunch post.

  10. I’ve never heard of this before. Sounds very challenging but you have some great tips here. I like the idea of making pictures with the food 🙂

  11. Love the ideas. My 2 sons have sensory processing disorder it does make like difficult. Love the way you make pictures from food

  12. Some great tips for any child who’s a fussy eater here Joy too – I found with mine that familiarity is key. Often they need to see new food on their plates and ours half a dozen times before they’ll even try it!

  13. Great links, thanks. I wouldn’t like a cheeseburger dumped in ketchup either, and it always irritates me how people who will eat any food, any old how, are not at all tolerant of those who prefer it a different way – mashed up, separated, cold, whatever that is!! 🙂

  14. We found getting the kids involved in the mealtime process really helped with any fussiness around food – I guess it gives them greater ownership of what goes into their mouths and kind of demystifies the kitchen 😉

  15. Really interesting post, we’ve reached a stage where mine are old enough to have the courage and maturity to try things they’ve not liked before. It’s been a struggle – but you do get there in the end… 🙂

  16. I love the idea of the sectioned plate, we have a little chum with a similar problem and dinners here can be fraught for everyone – I will buy one and see it it helps at all when he visits – thanks for the tips!

  17. This is a really enlightening post. When mine were smaller they wouldn’t eat food if it touched at all either. Maxi had real sensory issues, but he has learned to control them or at least work with them as he has got older

  18. I have a fussy eater and it can be so frustrating to try and get him to taste new foods. You’ve got some good ideas that I might try. Not sure why I haven’t come across this post before!

  19. Great tips! My son has ADHD and he has had similar problems with sensory eating. It’s hard to remember, especially when you are in a hurry. But either you do, or you’ll have a melt down in your hands.

  20. I am trying to encourage mine to eat more fruit and veg. I don’t like them playing with food, but this week we made jelly and they much preferred sticking their hands in it to actually eating it

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