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Why Do Kids Become Picky Eaters?

Does your picky eater have you dreading dinner time? You’re not alone! Picky eating is a huge challenge for parents. Not only are you frustrated by a kid who just won’t eat, you’re probably worried they aren’t getting the nutrition they need. So why do kids become picky eaters? Is your child just being stubborn? Do they really and truly hate the taste of broccoli? Are they picking up on your own hatred of veggies? Research shows it’s actually all of the above.

Parents of picky eaters all seem to grapple with these questions:

  • How do I get my kid to eat their vegetables?

  • Who can help me if my kid won't eat?

  • How long does picky eating last?

  • Is picky eating normal?

It might sound crazy, but picky eating is healthy eating. It’s part of a normal developmental phase – though admittedly a not-so-fun one. During this period, there are a range of factors that can cause kids to become picky eaters.

These include:

  • A newfound sense independence

  • Sensory and motor development

  • A parent’s attitudes about food

In HelloJoey’s “Picky Eating, Healthy Eating” kit, we take a multi-pronged approach to solving the challenges of a picky eater. We look at your child’s brain, body, and psychological development to explore all three of these causes of picky eating for kids up to the age of five, helping you to understand why kids become picky eaters and providing you with expert strategies and techniques to help you handle it.

A newfound sense of independence

Pickiness often starts around age two, at the same time that kids start using the all powerful “no,” which of course is every parent’s favorite period. At this point, kids are starting to recognize themselves as being different and separate from their parents. The quickest way to assert this newfound independence is by responding "no" to pretty much everything, including food. While the phase can be frustrating, take heart: Most kids outgrow picky eating by age eight.

Motor and sensory development

As adults, we can forget how complicated the actual process of eating can be. Some kids become picky eaters because they’re still learning that process, and their brains and bodies can become overstressed by it.

  • Physically, your child is still developing the motor skills to eat. Getting food into their mouths, chewing, and swallowing take practice! It’s also hard for a little one to sit at the table – especially if their legs are dangling and they’re generally insecure and uncomfortable. To help, the “Picky Eating, Healthy Eating” kit includes expert recommendations on how to correctly position your child at the table during mealtime.

  • Mentally, your child’s brain is working overtime to keep up with all the messages their senses send when they try something new. The complicated brain circuits that organize and process information are still being formed and learning to communicate with each other. While this sensory processing is developing, a child who’s bombarded with unfamiliar foods can become overwhelmed and may start rejecting everything.

Between the physical challenges and the overstimulation that comes with so many new tastes, textures, and scents, a child can get exhausted and may shut down when they become overwhelmed. In fact, you may be feeling overwhelmed yourself after all this information! It’s a lot to sink your teeth into – but the “Picky Eating, Healthy Eating” explains it all in more detail.

A parent's attitude about food

Being an awesome parent means being an awesome role model for your kids – and that includes setting a great example when it comes to eating habits. An article in the Journal of Family Psychology notes that what we parents eat is key. Some kids become picky eaters watching their picky parents – so if you want your child to try new foods or skip the chips, you have to do it, too!

App Tip:

The best way to help your child to develop a healthy relationship with food is to look at your own eating habits. If you’re like most of us and your attitudes about food could use a little adjustment, think about a few small changes you can start making today. The “Picky Eating, Healthy Eating” kit can help. What your kid experiences at home lays the foundation with how they’ll approach and interact with food for their entire lives. You have the power to shape that foundation by making sure you have and share healthy attitudes and behaviors.

Want to learn more about why your kid is a picky eater and what you can do about it? Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.

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