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Picky EaterRaise your hand if you have a child or have heard a child refuse a food based upon how it looks? Rest assured that you’re not alone in the picky eater world. I’ve not only had that experience in my own home but countless times as a clinician. What is it about the look of a food that can set a kid off without a second glance?

Eating is Complex – Harder for the Picky Eater

Eating is complicated.  It involves many different sensory experiences in order to go successfully.

The first sense in the process of eating/accepting a new food is the visual sense. We first “taste” a food with our eyes. If it passes that test, which may be easy or hard depending upon how the person’s visual sense perceives the item, then we go on to experiencing the food with another one of our senses.

One of the last sensory systems used in accepting a new food is taste, yet we often begin there. We seem to have this system backwards, wouldn’t you say?

A Vision Board for the Picky Eater

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to make a vision board at a retreat that I attended. At first, I thought how in the world can putting a bunch of pictures from magazines on a poster board help me reach my goals? Well, I quickly learned that having those visual images in front of me each day, DID help me to reach my goals.

It helped me visualize myself doing and achieving the steps necessary to reach my goals.  It wasn’t long before I began to think about the connection of my Vision Board experience and how it might help my picky eating clients with whom I worked.

What if creating Vision Boards with my picky eaters helped them to see themselves becoming more adventurous with food? I began to experiment with different versions for different kiddos but kept the basic premise the same. Using the concept of a Vision Board with a picky eater should include these steps.

Gather Supplies Specific to the Picky Eater

  • Magazines {preferably those with many pictures of foods or people eating}
  • Grocery store circulars
  • Favorite food logos cut from packages
  • Real pictures of the child eating, cooking or interacting with food
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • Poster board or tri fold project board cut in half to make two, smaller tri fold boards

Explain the Activity to the Picky Eater

Keep things light and fun by simply inviting the child to complete the activity with you. Show them the pictures you have pre-cut.  The pre-cuts may be from circulars or real pictures you have of the child enjoying food. Share with the child that you are going to work together to make a food collage of their favorite foods.  Continue to suggest that the child may include some other foods that he or she may want to try or look interesting to them.

Vision Board Lay Out for the Picky Eater

Divide the board into three parts: Favorites, Like and Try. You can write these onto each section where the corresponding photos will be placed. If your child is able to write the words, let them take control and allow their creativity with the wording and writing to soar.

Glue or tape selected pictures onto the board.

Complete the board in one sitting or work on it over time.

Keep the board, no matter if complete or a work in process, displayed where your child can see it each and every day.

Repair the Broken Relationship with Food

Following these basic steps allows your child to really feel like they are owning the activity and what goes onto their board.  This also begins to repair any broken relationship with food that has occurred from the stress that picky eating has on a family and mealtimes.

By allowing the child to “own” this board and put on it what they wish, they are letting down their guard a bit and a sliver of trust around food is cultivated. Trust around food, even if it isn’t with real food or at the table, is KEY to beginning moving forward with picky eating.

Remember no pressure and HAVE FUN!