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Picky Eater or Problem Eater? By: Leslie Hopkins, Occupational Therapist OT Reg. (Ont.)

Picky Eater or Problem Eater? By: Leslie Hopkins, Occupational Therapist OT Reg. (Ont.)

Picky Eater or Problem Eater?

As a parent making sure your child gets a healthy meal is important no matter what age. However some infants and children can become picky eaters or problem eaters.

What is the difference between picky eaters and problem eater?

“Picky Eaters” can be defined as having a decreased range or variety of foods that your child will eat, 30 different foods or more. Picky eaters may stop eating certain foods but will often pick them back up in a few weeks. Picky eaters will eat at least one food from most of all food textures. Picky eaters may eat different variations of food that the family is eating but will often eat with the family. Picky eaters usually are able to tolerate new food on their plate and can touch or taste it (though they may not like the food after).

“Problem Eaters” can be defined as kids who have a restricted range or variety of foods that is less than 20 different foods. Often problem eaters will cry, become upset, avoid eating or gag/vomit when they are not presented with their preferred foods. Problem eaters may refuse entire categories of foods or textures. They mostly eat different food than the rest of the family and often do not eat with the family. Problem eaters have a lower tolerance to new foods on their plates and usually do not want the food near them.


Tips for Home

  • Sensory Play – Make food fun! Play around with the food without the “threat” of having to eat the food.
  • Build up tolerance – Talk about food, bring it to the table, move it close to them and then eventually on to their plate.
  • Take it slow – Don’t force anything, make feeding positive and give yourself and your child time to adjust.
  • Refer to an Occupational Therapist at Butterfly. Therapists are trained in evidence-based practice to help succeed in feeding.  There are many strategies and approaches a therapist can use that will fit your  child’s specific strengths and challenges.

When do I see an Occupational Therapist?

Whether or not you have a picky eater or problem eater an Occupational Therapist is able to assess and implement an individualized treatment plan. There are many different reasons why children may be avoiding or dropping food groups and an Occupational Therapist can help increase the success of feeding your child at home, daycare, and school.

If you are concerned about your’s childs’ feeding – contact your healthcare provider and/or Butterfly Occupational Therapist, or attend our upcoming feeding workshop!


When: Thursday, May 2 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Where: Butterfly Paediatric Therapy

Fee:     $10 per participant

To register for the workshop or to schedule a feeding assessment with an Occupational Therapist please call Butterfly at (905) 206-0300 or email at:



By | 2019-04-16T11:37:01+00:00 April 16th, 2019|