“My child can eat peanut butter sandwiches all day, every day. But, she is reluctant to try anything else I make.”
We often hear this complaint from parents that their kids give them a hard time when it comes to eating. Either they refuse to try anything new or they dislike whatever your make or they sit for hours at the dinner table leaving their plates untouched.
Whatever the reason may be, it is quite normal for kids to be fussy about eating what you want them to. And, the good thing is they might get become less picky as they grow older if you make meal-times less stressful and pleasant for everyone.
Here is what you can do to make your child enjoy their meals:
- Don’t force your child to eat.
It may seem like a good idea to force your child to stay in their seats until they finish their plates, or try something new but it will only build up negative feelings against the food and you. Remember, picky eating is part of a child’s development when they are just learning about their likes and dislikes.
- Turn off the TV or phones.
Mealtimes should be pleasant where you get a chance to spend time together as a family so it’s best to shut off all devices and be totally present with your kids when you are eating.
- Ask the child about their preferences.
Maybe your child likes macaroni for every meal so you can discuss healthy options that can go on the side and allow your child to pick them. This will allow your child to feel special because you are considering their preferences.
- Make food fun and colorful.
Add ketchup or sprinkles or cut your food in fun shapes. Children love things that are colorful and fun so why not add that to their food. It will tempt them to try new things when they see the extra effort you’ve put in.
- Involve your child.
Get your child involved as much as possible during and before mealtimes. Maybe you can go grocery shopping together or ask them to set the table or even help you prepare the meal. Take it as a bonding experience that you and your child will both enjoy.
- Offer choices.
If possible, try to make more than one main dish or have side dishes that your child can choose from. If there are other healthier options at the table, chances are that they may pick something else to eat if they don’t like what you’re serving them.
- Keep trying.
It takes time for kids to start liking certain foods and build up a taste for it. So don’t expect them to like things the first time around. You can offer something one day and then reintroduce it a couple of days later.
- Start off small.
Never fill your child’s plate with new food and expect them to finish it or like it. Just as it takes time for them to build up their taste palate, it is also important that you give small amounts of food to introduce the taste. For example, start off with a piece of broccoli or spoon of yogurt and slowly add more each time.
- Deal with picky eating calmly.
It can be frustrating and stressful when your child doesn’t eat or doesn’t want to eat the meal you’ve prepared. But, it is important to stay calm in these situations instead of getting angry. Remember, you’re child is learning. Wouldn’t you want them to be head-strong and know what they like and dislike? Wouldn’t you want them to communicate what their choices are? Think of it this way and remain calm even when they refuse to eat.
- Set a meal schedule.
Prepare a meal schedule and make sure your kids aren’t eating between meals. When they snack at the wrong times, it is highly likely that they will be too full to eat when it’s time for an actual meal. Usually, when kids are hungry, they are more willing to try new things and finish their plates.
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About the Founder
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.