Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders

Many parents find themselves navigating meal time with a child who is a “picky eater”.  It’s no easy task, that’s for sure! But, how do you know if your child is a “typical” picky eater, or if they have a more serious problem that may require professional help? Well, here is some information below that we hope will help!  The informational chart below was written and copyrighted by Dr. Kay Toomey, developer of the SOS Approach to Feeding.



– Accepts a decreased variety of food

– 30 or more foods typically eaten

– Accepts a restricted variety of foods

– 20 or less foods typically eaten

– Foods are no longer accepted due to “burn out”

– Typically, the child will eat these foods again after roughly a 2 week break

– Foods are no longer accepted due to “burn out”

– The food is not added back in as a preferred food, further decreasing the number of accepted foods

– Eats at least one food from each food group (vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, proteins, dairy)

– Eats a variety of textures (purees, meltable foods, crunchy foods, soft foods, etc.)

– Refuses entire categories of foods

– Refuses certain textures of foods

– Frequently eats a different meal than the rest of the family BUT will eat at the same time and place as the family

– Almost always eats a different meal than the rest of the family AND often eats at a different time and place than the family

– Can tolerate new food on their plate

– Typically will touch or taste the food (it might be reluctantly)

– Cries, screams, tantrums, or “falls apart” when new foods are presented

– Demonstrates strong preferences (only accepts foods from a specific plate,  refuses preferred foods if close to non-preferred foods, etc.)

– Parents sometimes feel that their child is a good eater and sometimes feel that he/she is a picky eater

– Parents always feel that their child is a picky eater

(Copyright 1997/2019 Kay A. Toomey)


Tips & Tricks for your picky eater:

Okay, so let’s say that you’ve determined that your child is a “typical” picky eater. Now what? Mealtimes are still stressful and with a busy schedule, you’re tempted to just give in and make them chicken nuggets for the fifth night in a row. We don’t blame you! However, we encourage you to follow these tips below to help your child develop healthy relationships with the food that they eat.

  • ALWAYS keep eating a positive experience! Avoid pressuring your child to eat a food, providing ultimatums (“no TV if you don’t eat your dinner!”), using bribery (“if you try just one bite of broccoli, you can have ice cream”), and engaging in power struggles. It is so important for children to develop healthy relationships with food at a young age that will stay with them into adulthood.
  • Make small changes to your child’s preferred foods to help encourage acceptance of a greater variety of foods. Try presenting a food on a different plate, cutting food into a different shape, placing it on their plate in the shape of a smiley face, or trying a different brand. Sometimes the smallest changes can lead to the biggest gains.
  • Play! That’s right, let your child play with their food. No expectations to taste or eat the food – only to play and interact with it. Want your child to eat vegetables? How about using a carrot as a rocket ship? Broccoli as the trees in a forest? Green beans as swords? The more interactions a child has with a food, the more likely he/she will be willing to taste it on their own.
  • Lastly, as a general guideline – You’re in charge of what goes on the plate. Your child is in charge of what goes in his/her body.

What if you have a “problem feeder?:

If you find yourself thinking that your child’s eating habits place them on the “problem feeder” side of this chart, it is important that you seek the help and guidance of a trained professional, such as an occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist. Intervention by a trained professional is critical to help prevent your child from enduring the long-term nutritional impact unhealthy eating habits could have, or are already having, on your child. Our job as professionals is to identify the underlying cause of your child’s eating difficulties (i.e. sensory, oral-motor, behavioral). We can then help guide your child and you in the process of repairing the unhealthy relationships that he/she has developed with food. Our goal is to work together as a team to make food and mealtimes something that your family can enjoy together! 

If you’re concerned that your child’s eating habits are impacting their nutritional well-being, please talk to your pediatrician. They’ll be able to help you create a plan that best fits your child’s nutritional needs! 😊

Written By: Cortney Kunkle, M.A. CCC-SLP

Summer Activity Ideas from an Occupational Therapist

Summer is here and many kids are excited for a break from the school schedule. Without the regular routine of school, summer days can get long and it can feel strenuous to keep kids busy. Many of us have heard the phrase “kids thrive on routine” and have seen first hand how true this can be. A list of occupational therapy activities are provided below to keep kids engaged, happy, and ready for the school year next year or in the short term, ready for a good night’s sleep! Continue reading “Summer Activity Ideas from an Occupational Therapist”

Screen Time: A Therapist’s Perspective

Greetings friends and families! Spring is upon us and it’s a great time to start a new activity. How about a 1 week challenge? Screen Free Week is April 29th-May 5th and to encourage participation in this challenge we are asking you to give us your goals/plans for reducing screen time! Please email us at rhian@spinept.com or post a comment on our Facebook page with your ideas on how to reduce screen time in your home. Anyone who contributes will have their name entered into a drawing for prizes!

In our blog this month, our Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists have provided important reasons, based on their individual expertise, to consider this challenge! Please keep reading below… Continue reading “Screen Time: A Therapist’s Perspective”

Insurance Questions Answered

Written by Jennifer Longoria | Billing Specialist

New year means many things, but, in the world of insurances, it means insurance benefits start over.  Most insurances run on what is called a calendar year.  That means the benefit period is from January to December. Sometimes insurances run on a fiscal year, which renews in the middle of the year and not on January. To determine when your health insurance plan renews, you can call the member number on the back of your health insurance card. Continue reading “Insurance Questions Answered”

Surviving Thanksgiving with a Picky Eater

Idaho Pediatrics

Written by Marla Ambrose | M.S. & CCC-SLP

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday or at least one of my favorite holidays! Getting together with the people you love most and eating delicious food is a wonderful thing! However, for some families with picky eaters or problem feeders, Thanksgiving can be a dreaded day. In hopes of making your Thanksgiving a pleasant one, I have compiled a few of my go-to tips and tricks for making the holidays a little easier for you and your picky eater at mealtime:

Minimize changes in your child’s eating schedule
During holiday breaks, it is easy to let our routines shift. Continue reading “Surviving Thanksgiving with a Picky Eater”

National Physical Therapy Month

Idaho Pediatrics

Happy National Physical Therapy Month! -Brianna Albrecht, DPT

Hello IPTC Families! Hope this finds you settling into your school routines and enjoying the fall season. October is always one of my favorite months because it means changing leaves, cooler weather, and National Physical Therapy Month. Throughout the month, physical therapists have the opportunity to educate the community about the benefits of physical therapy. For the first monthly blog on our NEW website, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the many benefits of physical therapy. Continue reading “National Physical Therapy Month”


Idaho Pediatrics
Ten years ago, this month, Idaho Pediatric Therapy Clinic (IPTC) began with one provider, in one room, housed inside Idaho Spine and Sports Physical Therapy. In the last decade, IPTC has grown in both space and staff, but our core motto has always remained the same:  A Child’s Job Is To Play! Play is a basic form of learning for all children, regardless of their varied abilities.

Continue reading “PLAY!”