It’s a burning question, “Do picky eaters grow out of it?” The answer may surprise you! Come find out and get some incredible tips for picky eater kids that can help them learn to love mealtime and new foods.
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Will my kid grow out of picky eating?”
And, do you know why it’s on so many parents minds?? Because that’s what everyone tells them and tells you!!! Friends, family, and even doctors dole out this advice to all picky eaters, from the finicky to the extreme.
Deep down, you know that maybe this one size fits all advice may not be true, even though you’re crossing your fingers that it is.
The Real Truth About Outgrowing Picky Eating
The real truth is that some kids do outgrow picky eating and some don’t. The kids that do outgrow it are typically picky eaters because of the normal picky eating phase that most children go through. This phase usually starts somewhere around 1-2 years old and lasts until 3-5 years old.
These kids usually were very good eaters as babies!
Most of them “should” exit the picky eating stage, but not all do. Because some get caught in pitfalls that cause picky eating to only get more severe. Some of these traps are:
- Short order cooking (when your kid decides what they’re eating for every meal)
- When there’s pressure at meals (begging, bribing, rewarding, punishing, etc.)
- No variety of foods (only giving them the foods they do eat)
- Grazing (no set time for eating and can have food whenever they’re hungry)
But, I’m not pointing any fingers and if you’re doing any of the above, you’re not alone. Most parents are because there’s such a lack of information about what they should be doing.
But, What About the Picky Eaters That Don’t Outgrow It?
The kids that don’t outgrow picky eating fit into two different categories:
1.) The normal picky eating phase that snowballed into something bigger.
2.) An underlying difficulty is in play that is making eating hard or unpleasant to eat.
In either of the above cases, if nothing is changed for the child, either by addressing the underlying trouble or changing some of the habits and attitudes around mealtimes, picky eating may last a lifetime.
We all know picky eating adults. It happens!
And, if you’d scroll the comments on Your Kid’s Table, you’ll find that they hate how limited their food choices are, and desperately want to eat new foods like their friends and family.
Oh picky eating, won’t you just go away!
Of course, I say this not to scare you, but to motivate you because the reality is that changing how, when, and what foods are served is hard. It doesn’t just affect your child, but you too. It causes us to question our own eating habits and priorities. We all resist change, me included, but following some basic strategies can help you begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
This will look different for each and every family. Maybe you’re like one of my Mealtime Works students (that’s my online picky eating class for parents).
When Lindsay Gannt started learning how to help her picky eater, they were already sitting at the table regularly for meals, but her 6 year old son hated coming to the table even though Lindsay gave him a lot of the foods that he did like. In fact, she was so worried that he wasn’t eating enough that she gave him the same foods a lot of the time.
While that seems to make sense, it only limited his variety and he was stuck.
Some of the very steps Lindsay took was to start putting more foods on his plate, just so he could get used to seeing them. Then, she focused on stopping all forms of pressure, you can read more about that here.
Simple, but utterly transformative in her situation!
Getting on the Same Page with Other Caregivers
While it’s not always possible, in Lindsay’s case, having her husband learn the strategies so they could approach mealtimes as a team and begin to change their mealtime culture together set them up for a firm foundation. Then they could move onto tackling the underling eating challenges her son was facing.
Time to Deal with Deeper Issues that Need Addressed
Another myth that I’d like to bust is that picky eating is the parents fault! It’s not true and it’s not that simple. A variety of challenges that I call “underlying difficulties” affect most extreme picky eaters, the most common are:
- Physical discomfort or lack of appetite from a ton of different medical causes (Acid reflux in kids is one example)
- Strong dislike of certain textures, smells, or tastes of foods to the point of gagging or even vomiting (aka sensory processing issues with food)
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing, which are related to oral motor skills and possibly sensory processing as well.
Sometimes kids have multiple underlying difficulties, and addressing them is crucial to helping them finally grow out of picky eating. This can be done the traditional route through feeding therapy, and/or through learning more in an online class for parents, like mine: Mealtime Works.
You can click through the links above to find out more details on each of those specific issues or head to 5 Reasons Kids Won’t Eat to learn more.
Here’s some better advice for growing out of picky eating
The next time you hear, “Don’t worry, they’ll grow out of picky eating,” you’ll know to heed caution because the story doesn’t stop there. Maybe better advice would be, “There’s some simple strategies you can use to help your child grow out of picky eating or at least improve their eating.”
Yup, I like that a lot better. And, it’s true.
So, while this the whole “don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it” is common advice from doctors, I love that you’re trusting your instincts and digging a little deeper. Your Momma-sense is on fire! Just promise me that you won’t let that intuition drive you to worry because that ain’t gonna solve nothin’.
But starting with some well played strategies can change what your child eats and the stress in your home at meals.
Where can you start right now? Try these tips:
- offer your child a variety of foods, even if they don’t eat them
- keep mealtime’s positive
- eat together at set mealtimes
Don’t Miss The Free Picky Eating Mini Course, It’s For YOU!
Something tells me you want to do more though. You want to understand exactly how that’s going to work in your home. And, you’ve probably got some questions because not every picky eater is the same.
Then, get inside the free 7 Day Conquer Kid’s Picky Eating Mini Course. It just opened for the first time in a year and it won’t be available for long. This challenge is a glimpse of what I cover inside of my full Mealtime Works program, but it’s all free for you for this short time.
More on Picky Eater Kids
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.