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Picky Eating and Your 8 Senses

Eating is the most complex activity we do. Eating involves all 8 of our senses and the all the organs of our body to work together!

You read that right – 8 senses! Do you know them all? Let’s go:

The ones you know:

1. Sight

2. Hearing

3. Smell

4. Taste

5. Touch

The ones you might not know (these descriptions are SIMPLIFIED)

6. Vestibular (our sense of movement – how you know you’re moving)

7. Proprioception (our sense of our body in space- how you know you’re lying down)

8. Interoception (your internal sense – how you know you have to pee, or eat)

Most kids who are “picky eaters” or “problem feeders” have a skill deficit – and it is not a behavioral issue. This means that the child “CAN’T “eat, not that they “WON’T” Eat – this is a very important distinction! In fact, there are about 26 steps that go into eating. With so many skills, senses, organs, and steps involved it’s no wonder that picky eating is one of the most common issues I see as an occupational therapist working with children. Many families I have worked with have learned to tip-toe around their child’s eating preferences, which can become frustrating for caregivers and family members.

This is what prompted me to get trained by @SOSapproachtofeeding. The SOS approach helps children (and families) build the skills they need to feel comfortable eating. There’s no force feeding, no rewards, no punishments. Food relationships are complex and lifelong. Relationships with food are also built around social and family times and can have cultural significance to your family. It is important that your child have a positive and healthy relationship with food that promotes their growth and their confidence with the occupation of eating.

One of the most primal feelings for a caregiver to have is to nourish their baby, first with milk or formula and then with food. Many caregivers feel distraught if their child won’t eat nourishing foods, and some caregivers feel as if they are doing something wrong if their child won’t eat – because isn’t eating natural? Well.. Eating is a lot more complex than we realize and not all children learn how to eat all foods without assistance. If you have concerns about your child’s relationship with eating – it’s important to reach out and get help. There are trained professionals who are here to help you learn about feeding and support you and your family to learn, grow, and thrive.

Want some tips about what can you do to help your picky eater?

Let go of the idea that your kid will eat when they're hungry. This is not true for kids with feeding issues, and many of this will just not eat.

Get Messy!! Let your kid touch, smell, lick, foods. Put a drop cloth on the floor and go nuts. Fun exposure with food - to learn what it looks like, smells like, and tastes like is great!

Let your child eat their preferred foods. These are often stepping stones to other foods when building repertoire.

 Work with a professional who can walk you and your child through the many steps of feeding.

Reaching out for help means you can share your concerns, isolate the issue, learn more about feeding, and get a plan that works for your family. You don’t have to shoulder the burden of feeding issues yourself – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Here are some other organizations that offer excellent resources and support for parents:



And I always recommend you speak with your medical doctor if you have concerns about your child’s eating, weight gain, or any developmental concerns.


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