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Could Your Picky Eater's Behavior Be Linked to Sensory Issues?

Updated: Mar 11

A small boy eating yogurt from a container

Did you know that children who are picky eaters might have sensory issues that make it difficult for them to try new foods?

Understanding how your child's senses work is key, especially when dealing with picky eating habits.

Eating isn't just about filling the belly; it's a sensory experience too. Kids use all their senses while eating.

For some kids, the way certain foods look or smell can be overwhelming, making them hesitant to try them. Texture, flavor, and even temperature can also play a big role in what foods they prefer.

Sensory sensitivity in children can often go unnoticed for a while unless a professional like an occupational therapist or speech pathologist identifies it. When we recognize and deal with sensory issues, it not only helps parents understand their child's eating habits and daily routines better, but it also improves the child's reactions to different situations.

Two small boys tasting while baking in the kitchen

Here are some signs that your child might have trouble with sensory processing when it comes to eating. This list isn't exhaustive, but if you notice your child showing any of these behaviors, it might be a good idea to have them evaluated further.

Signs Your Picky Eater Child Might Have Trouble Eating Due to Sensory Issues

  • Cover his ears when there are loud noises or sounds that don't seem to bother anyone else, like people talking loudly or background noise from music or the TV.

  • Get upset easily when others at the table are chewing loudly, scraping silverware against their plates, or doing other regular eating actions.

  • Close his eyes or shield them from too much going on in the room, like lots of things on his plate or table, or if the room is too bright.

  • Struggle with wet, sticky, or messy hands or face. Some kids might need to change their clothes if even a little water spills on them.

  • React strongly, like holding his nose, gagging, or even throwing up, when he encounters foods he's not familiar with.

It's good to recognize these signs of sensory issues, and it's important to remember that every child is unique, so sensory challenges can vary a lot from one child to another. Sensory issues can affect how a child feels and behaves at home, at school, and during social activities.

If you're worried that your child's eating struggles could be due to sensory issues, it's a good idea to discuss it with your child's doctor or another expert who can link you to the right support and treatment options. Some specialists, like occupational therapists, have special training in sensory integration therapy and can assist your child (and you) in dealing with sensory challenges.

Build a Better Eater book for parents of picky eaters

Turn your picky eater into a brave taster! Get my must-have strategies to help your picky eater try new foods.

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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