angry toddler

It might be one of the most frustrating moments in a young parent’s life: your once-amiable baby who would eat anything you spooned into their chubby cherub mouth suddenly clamps her jaw shut, shakes her head and shrieks, “NO!” at everything you offer. Turns out, your picky eating problem might be a sensory problem, especially if your child has shown signs of having sensory sensitivities in other situations—like reacting poorly to loud noises, strong smells, or getting gook on their hands.

The good news? You can teach your way out of this kind of picky eating habit.

The French government offers a program in schools called classes du goût, which is a sensory education course based around foods. A group of Finnish researchers decided to put the curriculum to the test, and got great results. In fact, the picky eaters in the research study who had been through the course would willingly taste a larger number of new foods than the kids who hadn’t had the course, and were less afraid of trying new foods in general.

Sound good? Here’s what you need to know to replicate it at home.

Try to identify the senses that seem to be a problem: Does your child seem sensitive to strong smells?  Work on introducing pungent foods. Is texture a problem? Work on foods with different mouthfeels.

Stop protecting your child from offensive foods: For a lot of us, if our child reacts badly to a certain food, we want to shield them from it to prevent them from getting upset and having a meltdown. But actually, we should be doing the exact opposite; exposing children to foods they say they don’t like in a structured, non-pressured way will help alleviate the problem.

Remember, there is no perfect food: Many parents dealing with a picky eater will do just about anything to find that “perfect” food that their kid will eat willingly all the time. But the truth is, there is no perfect food, because the food isn’t the root of the problem. Exposing kids to lots of foods and educating them about food is the only “perfect” solution.

You can get the lowdown on the entire curriculum from It’s Not About Nutrition and try it for yourself.

Image: nerissa’s ring