By: Lindsay Barret M.S., CF-SLP

Mealtime can be stressful when your child has difficulty integrating new foods into his or her diet. This can be challenging for children for a variety of reasons and is a unique process for each child. Taking a multidisciplinary approach can be beneficial, depending on the needs of your child. This team can include a pediatrician, nutritionist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or psychologist.

The following tips can help reduce the pressure and fear of mealtime and encourage your child to try new foods:

Make mealtime fun!

  • Sing a song
  • Integrate toys
  • Making it fun yields better results!!

Reduce distractions

Limit stimuli in the child’s environment that can serve as a distraction, such as background noise or too many toys.

Make comparisons to the foods the child already likes

  • “It’s another fruit”
  • “It’s the same color as…”
  • “It feels just like…”
  •  “It tastes just like…”

Encourage children to play with their food

That’s right! It’s good to get messy. Let them explore new foods with all of their senses and explore all of the properties of their food. This is especially helpful for children with sensory deficits or children who are aversive to new textures. This is part of the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) approach to feeding. Visit this website for more information on this approach.

Giving your new foods “kisses”

Begin with having your child touch the food or bring the food to your child’s lips before placing the food in their mouth. You can also start by simply placing the new food on the plate in front of the child. This is a helpful technique if your child is not yet able to touch the food or bring it to their mouth.

Try the food yourself in front of the child to reduce fear

Or have a toy pretend to eat the food – the sillier the better!

Encourage the child to take small bites at first

Start with small bites and work your way up to larger bites! Mouse bites, bird bites, kitty bites, dog bites, horse bites, and elephant bites.

Be consistent with your behavior and be patient during mealtime

  • Allow children to explore and try new foods are their own pace. Don’t force new foods, as it will create tension and anxiety around mealtime
  • Be consistent with the behaviors you reinforce or those that you are trying to limit
  • Be consistent with the ways/times in which you present new foods

Exaggerate how delicious the food is to your child

Be as animated as you can to encourage your child to expand his/her palate. 

Place the food on the table on a separate plate

This way, it is in your child’s view but not ‘threatening’ the other foods on his/her plate.

Please see below for a list of feeding milestones and be sure to integrate the above steps into mealtime to make it fun and help your child’s diet grow!

Feeding Milestones