New children’s book aims to help picky eaters

"Play With Your Food" cover

Pediatric occupational therapist and La Jolla resident Sarah Appleman recently released “Play With Your Food!”, a guidebook with games and recipes for parents with children who are overly picky eaters.

“I wanted to make something that is fun, will build memories around eating and positive interactions, but also something that’s affordable and they can use the things in their home to help,” said Appleman, who completed the book in about two years.

Sarah Appleman

Appleman said she works with children up to age 5, and has used her experience with her own son, who is now a teenager, to develop some of the methods that are suggested in the book.

“I always tell them that my son was the same way,” she said, referring to other parents who seek advice for their children about how to overcome the picky eating. “I worked with him when he was little, he had a really hard time with a lot of textures and eating. Things that I used to do at home I brought into the therapy world and vice versa.”

Some of the activities she suggests include hiding foods, such as chocolate or a small piece of fruit, in plastic eggs and hiding them around the house. Once the child finds it, they can eat it, or at least sniff it or lick it to help them become more familiar with it, Appleman said.

“You make it more of a positive interaction rather than reprimanding if they don’t eat,” she added.

Other methods involve having children involved in handling and preparing foods, such as pasta or rice, for the increased sensory experience.

“It gives them such a sense of pride and it’s really nice for the kids to see it and then they’re more likely to eat it,” Appleman said, adding that the exercises help children “get skills, be more independent and get excited about eating.”

The goal, she said, is to “make it more of a positive interaction rather than reprimanding if they don’t eat.” The book also includes more than 40 recipes.

Children who struggle with food aversion could be at risk for developing anxiety from being forced to try new foods, according to Appleman.

Since the book came out in May, Appleman said she’s been receiving photographs from all over the country showing children making progress using her advice.

“Their parents are just grateful for the fact that their kids have made great strides,” she said.

She also said “seeing the pictures and getting that positive feedback is really rewarding,” and “the parents are just ecstatic that their kid is excited.”

“Play With Your Food!” is available on Amazon at and

Appleman is also the co-author of “Paw Prints: A Unique Multisensory Curriculum for Handwriting.”