Most parents struggle with feeding their kids at some point in their lives. Eating is one of the most basic functions, so why is it so hard? There are many reasons a child might not like a specific food — the texture, what it looks like, the smell, or the child could be anxious about the sensory experience, so they refuse even to try it. Whatever the reason, there are ways to make this experience less stressful for everyone. 

I am a pediatric therapist and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through a convenient telehealth experience. I often help families who struggle with picky eaters. Most picky eater caregivers dread mealtime because they know there will be struggles around food. Mealtimes should be an opportunity to connect with your family, not a time of stress. I’m excited to share a few of my favorite tips on how to support your child during mealtimes so the entire family can get back to a stress-free meal. 

Tips to Ease Mealtime Stress With Your Picky Eater

Introduce new foods alongside favorite foods.

Do not force your child to try a new food. Continue to present it in small portions alongside favorite foods to increase the likelihood of your child interacting with it. 

Select three goal foods.

Make a list of your child’s preferred foods. These foods will help you determine new foods to introduce – you want to select new foods that are similar to your child’s preferred foods, but different in some ways. Introduce the goal foods one at a time. 

Use “I wonder” statements to encourage your child to try new foods.

“I wonder if that’s crunchy like your pretzels,” or “I wonder if it tastes sweet or salty.”

Take the pressure off your child.

If your child doesn’t want to interact with a food, say, “OK, I guess you’re not ready to eat that yet.” Adding yet to this statement leaves the possibility open for the future while making them more comfortable during mealtime.

Get them involved in food prep.

Helping in the kitchen makes your child an active participant and gives them a sense of control from the start.

Encourage them to explore food through smell, touch or trying it in small bites.

If your child smells a new food, that is a win! Encourage them to touch and smell the food if they aren’t ready to taste it yet. 

Give them some control over their food choices.

A food menu works great for this — give your child food options and let them fill out the weekly menu. When the child feels like they have some control over their food, they know what to expect and are more willing to try it. 

Manage your expectations.

It’s hard to put so much time and effort into feeding your child. Don’t expect any one tip to be the answer; this process can take time, but your patience will pay off. 

2022 Pinwheels for Prevention® Sponsor

Special Thanks to Kinspire for growing a better tomorrow for all children, together.

Speaking from personal experience with my youngest girl, being a parent to a picky eater can be overwhelming at times. If you’re looking for support for your picky eater, Kinspire can help you. 

Kinspire offers children and their families occupational therapy in the most flexible and convenient way that fits into anyone’s schedule. Kinspire’s platform empowers parents to support their children on a daily basis via a dedicated occupational therapist, on-demand telehealth services, and a self-service technology experience. Kinspire therapists work with families to develop a collaborative Family Action Plan tailored to their child’s needs and parents can reach out to their dedicated therapist whenever they need help or have questions.

No more wait lists or scheduling challenges— you can get help now at your convenience with Kinspire. Schedule a free consultation at to get matched with a licensed therapist who will guide and teach you how to support your family so you can get back to stress-free meals.

About the Author

About the Author

Lily Baiser is a parent and highly experienced pediatric occupational therapist (OT). She holds a certification in sensory integration theory and practice, and has advanced training in multiple interventions. She also serves as the chief clinical officer and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through telehealth to best support the developmental needs of children and their families.

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