My (almost) one year old is without a doubt a picky eater. However for her it’s less about what she does and doesn’t eat and more about her fierce independence that is the issue. She is desperate to feed herself and hates it when I try to spoon-feed her.. well unless it’s a spoonful of yoghurt. So when Allison asked me if she could do a guest post on picky eaters, I jumped at the chance.
If one of your kids often refuses your meals or is unwilling to try new foods, you’ll be familiar with the difficult, time-consuming process that mealtimes can become. You may feel frustrated that you’re wasting food as well as time, and you may find it difficult to stay calm when your child isn’t eating his or her dinner for the third time in a week. Don’t give up – most children eventually grow out of choosy eating as their taste buds mature. For now, however, try the following creative ways to make mealtime more fun for your picky eater:
Make your child’s meals look more appealing
Nearly all kids love colours, and incorporating their favourite colours into their meals may just encourage them to eat a little more. Vegetables, in particular, are easy to arrange in fun, colourful shapes – you might like to try creating a mini rainbow on your child’s plate. Bento boxes – lunchboxes with several small compartments – are often a hit with kids, too. They’re often bright and colourful to start with, and can be filled with lots of interesting foods in small amounts. Even if your kids leave part of their box uneaten, they’ll likely have still sampled a few healthy foods, which you can count as a small victory.
Give your child fun utensils
It’s possible that your child is less picky about food and rather seems to be concerned about what they’re eating with. If one of your kids refuses to use a particular utensil, try to entice them by offering them one in their favourite colour or with their favourite cartoon character. If they’re stubborn, you might place the utensil within their reach without specifically telling them to use it; they may well choose to pick it up if they feel that they’re not being forced to.
Let your kids choose their meals
Rather than telling your child what they’ll be eating for dinner, give them a choice between meals. With any luck, the illusion of having personally chosen the meal you’ve cooked will encourage them to eat it. You might also like to have your child in the kitchen while you’re preparing the meal: if they feel like they’ve contributed to making dinner, they may be more interested in actually eating it.
Use non-edible rewards
If you wish to reward your kids when they do eat their lunch or dinner without complaint, try to avoid giving them edible rewards; you don’t want them to eat their dinner solely in anticipation of something sweet. You could gift them with a new mug for every five meals eaten without a fuss, for example; they’ll be able to enjoy a kitchen-related gift next time they’re at the dinner table.
Having a picky eater in the family can be a headache for parents, but try to relax as much as possible. In time, your child’s eating habits will likely become a distant memory, so try to reframe mealtimes as a chance to spend time together as a family rather than letting your child’s refusals become the main focus of the meal. If you’re concerned your child won’t like something, encourage them to try a sample first. They’ll likely be able to manage a mouthful, and will be able to tell you whether or not they’ll eat a larger portion size. Studies suggest that children may also need to be exposed to a new food up to twenty times before they finally start to like it – so you might like to give your child a variety of samples and repeat these every day or two until your child decides he or she enjoys something.
Allison remembers being a picky eater when she was a child, but all that changed when her Mum started to involve her in the kitchen. Fridays were called “Ali’s Day” where the dishes were named after her. Ali’s special meatloaf was and still is a family favourite! You can find more about Allison and her published works here.
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