Dealing with a child who is a picky eater can make any parent’s or nanny’s life difficult. Not only will this limit the food options for the whole family/group, but it can also make it difficult for the child to go out, or have playdates with friends, ultimately taking away from their early developmental years where they are learning to socialize with the world around them. This is why it is so important to teach children from a young age how to appreciate different kinds of food. Below, we will go over techniques that you should try to help your child become more open-minded about their food choices.
1. Do Not Force Them to Eat if They Have No Appetite
Children are rebellious by nature. They are constantly pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with and what they can’t. If you try and force them to eat when they aren’t hungry, this could lead to a power struggle over food. If this happens often enough, your child will begin associating ‘meal time’ with anxiety and frustration, leading them to becoming even more stubborn and hard-headed over their food options.
2. Let Your Kid Play With Their Food
One of the most common errors that parents make when introducing new foods to their children is not allowing them to play and examine the food they are about to eat. Kids are very tactile. They like to touch, taste, smell, and see everything around them, especially something they are going to eat. Let them move their food around, play with it, break it apart, and things of that nature. Over time, this will make them more comfortable with the new food and ultimately more likely to eat it.
3. Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce
When your child doesn’t like a new food that you have showed them, do not immediately give up on that food. On average, it takes a child six attempts to try a food before they finally accept it. A good idea is to avoid introducing new foods during the major meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner because it might be too overwhelming for them. Instead, introduce new foods in small snacks. For example, if you are trying to introduce your child to different types of cheese, do not make a brand new macaroni and cheese dish with five different cheeses the kids has never tried. Instead, cut tiny pieces of the different cheeses and serve it to them as a snack in between meals in very small quantities. This over time will reinforce the food.
4. Give Less Snacks and Sugary Drinks
Another common area where parents often make mistakes is giving their child way to many snacks and drinks throughout the day. This causes the child to never actually have enough time to become hungry, ultimately making them less likely to try new foods! Cut back on the snacks and sugary drinks and see if that helps.
5. Introduce them to New Foods Slowly
If your child has a limited palate, new foods can be very intimidating. The best solution is too slowly incorporate new foods using foods they already like. For example, If they love chicken nuggets, maybe give them a healthier brand of chicken nuggets that have less breading. Once they get used to that you can give move on to grilled chicken breasts. They key is to this is to gradually guide them in the general direction you want them to go.
If you follow these steps, you will find that it much easier to help your child expand their palate and ultimately become more comfortable with the unfamiliar.