My Toddler Won’t Eat! ~ Physical Therapy Lessons


This week my little guy has graduated from working on his Fine Motor Skills in physical therapy, and has moved forward with his taste and texture concerns. This is especially exciting to me because he won’t eat!  It is difficult to reach the end of the day and see the plates of food all over the counter that was made for him that he refused to touch.

What can you do when your child WILL NOT eat? 

You may be thinking that every toddler is picky at times… and you would be correct.  However, there are days when even his favorite food is a no-go.  There are days when all he has eaten is a cheese stick – all day!  Because of this happening so frequently, I rely greatly on Carnation Instant Breakfast mixed in with his milk along with his Flintstones vitamins. Without them, I would be putting him in the hospital by now… I’m sure of it.  That is scary – very scary. Thankfully, his physical therapist understands that I am on the verge of panic about this and is willing to move forward.

This week she taught me the art of distraction needed to be used at the table too.  I never thought about distracting him to get him to eat.  I normally worked with getting him comfortable and making sure he was calm at the table. Distraction never crossed my mind.   She started with having him play with a ball popper toy.

Dog Popper

She used it first to get him drawn over to the table, rewarding him for sitting down, and distracting him from the fact there was food on the table.  It worked great because he really enjoyed it.  As an added bonus, this was great for his dexterity.  By the end of the visit, he was able to push the dog’s tummy and launch the ball on his own!  The first time he accomplished this he was thrilled and had the most adorable look of joy upon his face!

Boll Popper

Once she made him happy and he was comfortable in his booster seat, she moved forward with using his therapy putty.  She doesn’t do too much with it.  She hides beads inside that he pulls out on his own.  At first he is very careful not to touch too much of the putty, but after a minute or two he is so focused on finding the beads that he forgets he doesn’t want to touch it.

Another tool she has used each week is a sensory bin.  His sensory bin is nothing special compared to the elaborate sensory bins on Pinterest.  It showed me that you can really make a bin out of the simplest things.  She has dried rice and beans as the base and small common objects buried within.  After she left, I made one for myself – super simple.

Sensory Bin

Note: Between each of his activities she allowed him a few minutes with the ball popper again.

Moving forward, she began to use vibration therapy techniques with him.  I never bought the vibration toys for my kids!  Why did I not do that?  I had no idea some of these common baby toys were so important!  *Facepalm* I tried to find one on Amazon but was unsuccessful (too many irrelevant search results…)  I think I am going to use an inexpensive vibrating toothbrush instead.  We’ll see….

She used the wand in water, allowed him to hold it, and then tried to use it on his arms and hand.  If you notice in this picture, she is using distraction again to help introduce new things.  He is distracted with the water, a straw, spoon, and a blowing toy.

Toddler Vibration Therapy

For this session we worked with him on eating yogurt with sprinkles or candy mixed in.  Every kid would love to have this – right?  Nope, not my little guy.  He loves his Danimals drinkable yogurt and loves his candy – but is not pleased to have them put together! Even when he does it!  She started by feeding him candy on the spoon.  She distracted him with another activity and then started slipping small amounts of yogurt under the candy.  Each time she did this you could see his little wheels turning but he continued to eat it.  He ate almost the entire cup!  Success!

I tried this technique the next day and it wasn’t as promising for me.  He even brought it to me and asked for it!  I was so hopeful.  I tried distracting him with math manipulatives and counting bears.  He caught me putting the yogurt on the spoon and all bets were off…. she warned me that he can’t catch me doing it!  Blah- not fair!

So, here we are, it has been a few days since his last session.  Today wasn’t too bad, he had Carnation Instant Breakfast for… breakfast. And he ate several fish sticks during and after dinner.  I think we may have sneaked in a cheese stick too!  His lunch didn’t get touched and his Angry Bird cookies didn’t do the trick either.  I am still hopeful that he will eat real daily meals very soon.  I just need to perfect being a sneaky mom… not too good at that apparently.

Do you have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder?

(Click to view full graphic)

 Sensory Processing Disorder

What are some ways you have succeeded

in getting your little one to eat?

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2 thoughts on “My Toddler Won’t Eat! ~ Physical Therapy Lessons

  • Wow! I had no idea that the sensory bins could be so helpful! That is fantastic. I have struggled for a long time with my oldest not wanting to eat more than about a dozen things. He’s finally starting to try new things sometimes. Most of the time, it is unsuccessful and he says he doesn’t like it after barely touching his tongue to it, but every now and then we hit a home run and can expand his menu a little bit.

    I definitely can sympathize with your struggles. Celebrate the small victories! 🙂

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