Children develop general fussiness from the age of 2. This is thought to be because of the increasing level of independence and self confidence the child is experiencing. So how do you know if your child is just experiencing a developmental milestone or whether there is cause for concern? Lets look at what may actually be happening and when it is time to possibly seek further assistance regarding your child’s nutritional footprint.
When reviewing how habits are formed we need to consider how they influence the child’s nutritional choices.
Habits are formed quite easily when it comes to children’s behaviour. Developing patterns around eating are no different. For example, if a child gags on a particular food or the smell is unpleasant to them, it creates a memory in the brain. The next time the child comes into contact with the same food or smell, the brain recognises the previous reaction and sends signals reminding the child what happened before. The child rejects the food and the habit is formed and reinforced.
Children also have heightened sense of taste, smell, texture and sound and these define their opinions and emotions surrounding certain experiences. Don’t underestimate the power that the senses have in guiding a child to what they might enjoy and what they will dislike. Some children also have extremely heightened sense and these can interfere with every thing from food, to clothing, sound, smell and touch. It is important to assess whether your child’s texture fussiness is simply surrounding food or if it involves other developmental areas also.
When you are attempting to introduce food to a child who displays texture sensitivities, it is important to add texture to your thought process surrounding food. For example, yoghurt is not just about calcium and protein, it is also squishy, sloppy and mushy. Biscuits are not just carbohydrates and fibre, but they are also sharp, hard and scratchy. When you think about food this way you can work with your child to incorporate the nutrients within the parameters of the emotions it invokes within them.
In general ‘picky eating’ or food fussiness’ is only a problem if it interferes with the child’s ability to have a healthy diet. If you have a fussy eater on your hands and it is only mild (eg: 1 or 2 food groups) then there is a good chance that the child will outgrow the textures without force or guilt.
Below are some examples of when general fussiness may need to be assessed further:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sensory issues (loud noise, touch and low pain tolerance)
- Autistic Spectrum Disorder
- Eating fewer than 10 foods
- Genuine fear and rejection of new foods
As a parent you have an innate sense of awareness with your child, a gut instinct you might call it. I urge you to trust this instinct and if you are concerned in any way then speak to a health professional further. Extensive oral sensitivities can be assessed by an occupational therapist or speech pathologist and they can guide you further.
If you wish for assistance developing your child’s nutritional footprint please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org