Food Fussy Toddlers and Kids
Food Fussy Toddlers and Kids
We all know one or have one, right? The fussy eaters!
There are the usual tricks like ‘here comes the aeroplane’. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it works. Why…..?
Because behind every hardcore food phobic toddler/child, there is a deep-seated desire to play, that’s why. It’s called having fun. Much more fun to have an aeroplane deliver food into your mouth than a spoon…. apparently.
So, with this in mind, we have researched a few old and new ideas to help diffuse the tension at mealtimes.
Firstly, how can we minimize the potential for fussy eating to start?
Allow more time for meals. If your toddler does not sit still for long enough, never allow them to run around with food in their mouths. CHOKING HAZARD! Mealtimes should be a relaxed time for family to connect. If there are older children in the household, this is even more important. If your toddler becomes restless, buy some time to keep them at the table by playing a game, putting on a favourite CD etc.
Lead by example. Show them how you eat a variety of foods. Talk to them about what the food does for your body.
Try not to worry and show concern if your child is not eating what you feel they should. Looking at an overall nutritional intake for the week (keep a diary) rather than over a couple of days might help to confirm there is no need to worry. However, if you know your child is not thriving because of a nutritional deficit, make sure you visit your GP for advice. Keeping a diary will also help the doctor to assess if your child is eating enough.
NEVER plead with or bribe your child to eat. This can create power struggles.
Make food and mealtimes as relaxed and as much fun as possible. You will find some ideas in the next section.
Now for the big one! What to do if the fussy eating is already happening?
All of the above should be applied but miracles don’t happen overnight!
Encouraging a child to try new foods or eat something they believe to be ‘yucky’ is never easy or a quick fix. It will require patience and consistency. Both parents and any other carers will need to be on the same page.
Playing with food may not be great manners but if it gets your child to eat a wider range of foods, then why not?
Consider ‘painting’ with sauces and dressings in squeezy bottles. Cutting food into shapes. Mini food like mini sandwiches (just cut a normal sandwich into mini triangles) or mini burgers. Have a dolls/teddies tea party with mini food. Have picnics either out and about or in the backyard. Invite one of children’s friends who you know is a good eater and include lots of healthy food.
Colouring food. Ask your child what colour food they would like to eat that day. Use food colouring. However, while the message should be to eat a rainbow of colours every day, we also have to remember what the original colour was!!
Include your child with menu setting, shopping for the ingredients, making the table look great and preparing the food.
Give the food on the plate names like Brock Broccoli, Tom Tomato, Harry Ham etc. Alternatively, think of objects – broccoli becomes baby trees, mashed potato becomes clouds and so on.
With younger children and toddlers, it may be best to not have too many expectations about table manners if they are having issues with food. The important thing here is to ensure they learn to eat right, a habit they can enjoy through their whole lives. This is the foundation. Manners can come later. And don’t forget, praising your child when they choose to display manners which they learn from watching you sends the right message too. So, if they want to eat with their fingers, let them. As long as they are eating.
Kids love food they can dip. Fruit and veg kebabs are a great idea although perhaps not for toddlers. Just the pieces of fruit. Messy but fun!
If they really don’t like what you have cooked/created for them then rather than make a fuss which equates to stress around food, simply have a couple of standard alternatives to offer like a yogurt, piece of fruit or some cheese. No making another meal, bribery, or ‘no pudding’. Just replace the meal with the alternative of their choice and that’s it. No fuss! And nothing else.
Lastly, there are some great children’s dinnerware sets out there these days. These add so much fun to your child’s meals. Lilypond Kids offers a range of Bamboo dinnerware in a variety of designs. Take a look. Great value for calm mealtimes!