How frustrating, upsetting and stressful can it be if your child won't eat or dislikes the food that you place on the table? Are you frustrated that all your thoughts and hard work are going to be wasted? Or do you worry that your child will not be getting all the nutrition they need to grow? Do you stress about how are you going to make your child love his or her food enough to put it in their mouth?
Personally, I believe that for someone to love or be passionate about something, it has to come from within. So, instead of you forcing on them the food that you think is good for them, instill them with the love of food instead.
Below are 5 simple yet fun suggestions that may help you turn fussy eaters to food lovers.
Love your food
If you are passionate about food, your children will follow. Your child learns from WHO you are rather than what you say or tell them. When they see you loving your food, talk about food as though they are your friends. Invite friends over to sample your creations… when you children see how passionate you are with your food, they will love to appreciate those values as well.
Be the example you want to be; when you love your food, your child/children will be drawn to your passion.
Involve your children in the kitchen
Ask your child to help you in the kitchen and invite them to be your assistant.
- Get them to suggest the dish/es they like.
- Discuss how both of you are going to cook the dish.
- Talk about the ingredients that are needed.
- Take your child to the shops for the ingredients. Take the opportunity to enquire why your child loves this dish, or what are the special ingredients that stand out that she/he really likes.
- Allow your children to be hands on with the preparation with the food. Allow them to touch and feel the texture of the raw ingredients. This will increase the awareness of the food that they are preparing and to actually see the fruits of their labour. It will motivate them to love and appreciate their creation even more.
Children love to be included in what you do daily, so make it fun while you discuss about preparing the menus and shopping list.
Sometimes picky eaters want to exert some independence by wanting to eat themselves rather than being fed. Provide them with appropriate utensils that enable them to easily handle food according to their age and capabilities.
When my children were toddlers, I gave them an age appropriate spoon and bowl with a smaller portion of their food, and they would attempt to feed themselves, while I would feed them the proper portion at the same time when their mouths were open.
This way, while they focus on developing their hand eye coordination, they were still getting enough food into their system.
Make mealtime a happy time
Children learn through fun, so when you make mealtime a fun time, it will be something they can look forward to.
- Introduce a variety of colourful foods, such as carrots, capsicum etc.
- Make meal time a family time. It is when a family has a meal together that they can connect, talking, laughing and communicating with each other.
- Make meal time a relaxing, happy and enjoyable time away from distractions like TV or phone calls.
- Sometimes I would get them to pretend their spoon was an airplane, delivering yummy food to their mouth… so when the spoon approaches, they will have to open their mouth for the delivery.
Children thrive on routine
Try to have a fixed time for meals. Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. For example, we had one day a week where we would visit the library and then visit the local pizza shop (to take away their favourite pizza) before heading to the park for a picnic. That was our weekly fun day out.
Other times, we would have a routine for breakfast (normally with the dad before he heads off to work), lunch and dinner. Before dinner, my children would help with setting up the table, lay out the forks and spoons, and helping me to serve the food.
Would love to hear your feedback.
Have a fun and connected day with your family.