I am sure you have all had one of those days where you come home from work and cook a delicious meal for your family and you’re excited to sit down and eat together but unfortunately, it doesn’t go to plan. Your little one is kicking up a fuss and won’t eat their food and they are just plain refusing to eat anything!
This is not as uncommon as you think in fact most children go through this phase and according to a longitudinal study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information 25% of children were reported to be picky eaters!
It’s difficult as parents to see your child unhappy and often parents may want to please their child just to ensure they eat, but eating the same food every day means your child will be lacking nutrients and can cause them to be fussier! So what is it you can do you may ask? Well here are some tips to combat fussy eating at home.
1. Introducing lots of food at a young age
When your child shows signs that they are developmentally ready for solids (usually around 6 months) you can start an exploration of lots of foods. It is important at this stage that you introduce as many foods and flavors as possible. A great time to do this is during oral exploration, this is a key developmental stage for children between 3 and 12 months. In this time they will pick up everything and anything and put it in their mouths. Sitting with your child on a mat with lots of different types of food available and many flavours and encouraging them to put it in their mouth is a great activity to do at home. This will get them used to choosing foods, eating and trying new things from a young age.
2. Involving your child in the preparation of food
Children love to get involved in adult activities and are always curious about what mummy and daddy are doing, so why not get them involved in the preparation of food! When children get involved in the process of making their own food they feel proud and take ownership of it. This doesn’t have to mean you have to turn your whole kitchen upside down and start baking! You could make simple sandwiches or just cut some fruits or veg with a blunt plastic knife. Choosing things in the supermarket together is also a good idea, not letting them choose anything from the whole shop of course, (as you may come home with a whole trolley of chocolate) but giving them some choices and ensuring they are part of the process is important too.
3. Children eat with their eyes
I say children eat with their eyes, but so do we too, we are all ‘Instagramming’ our food making fancy meals, going to restaurants where cakes explode like volcanoes; generally food is better when it looks nice! Children are the same, they like their food to look good, it’s important to remember this and ensure that your child’s meal looks fun and appetising to them. If you wouldn’t eat it, why give it to them?
4. Hidden Veggies
For some reason little ones just despise veggies! And we all know that we should have a lot more vegetables in our diets and we, as parents really want our children to eat them. Sometimes no matter how much we encourage them, tell them it will make them strong they still refuse! This is where hidden veggies come in. There are lots of super ways you can hide vegetables into meals; search online for hidden vegetable recipes for kids.
Here’s something to check out-
5. Giving choices
Children love to choose their own things and feel independent in making choices. A good idea is to help your little one choose their meal whilst getting super involved in the preparation of the meal. Ask them if they would like carrots or broccoli? Chicken or Beef? Remember children have preferences too, and they don’t always want the same thing everyday!
Sometimes children can really test our patience and it’s difficult not to lose your cool! Don’t panic, take a few deep breaths and stay calm, children pick up on negative emotions and often this can make things worse. Remember to respect their lack of appetite and try to be as patient as you can. Try to stay on the dining table with them and show them you are willing to wait, don’t sit there on your phone either, it’s not polite and you don’t want to encourage this behaviour. Instead, encourage them to eat in a positive manner and don’t get frustrated.
7. Lead by example
Children learn through copying their parents and important people around them. If you’re a fussy parent and you often leave the crust of your pizza or don’t eat the brown on the banana then your children will copy. Show your child that you love the foods they are eating, go overboard and act it out saying wow this broccoli is delicious whilst rubbing your tummy, 9/10 times they will want to eat what you’re eating too.
8. Sticker chart
I bet your child love stickers right? Don’t they all? Well, why not have a sticker chart at home linked to their meal times or eating habits? You could have one for trying new foods or one for finishing meals you could have one for eating under a certain time limit. Use what works for you. It’s easy to make a nice simple one yourself at home or download one online. Don’t forget to give them a little treat at the end when they complete their goal.
9. Sticking with it
Putting all the above tips in place may be great but it won’t work if you don’t stick to it! You’d be surprised how much your child will notice and slack if you just have one day off! If you’re strict with them and ensure that you’re being patient and helping them to taste new fruits and vegetables and then one day you just give in and give them chicken nuggets you will be back to square one all over again!
Children need routine and it’s important for them to know what coming up next in their day. Sometimes we don’t share our routines with our children and it’s vital that we do. You could either tell your child we are going to Aunties, then driving home, going to the park and then after that is dinner (you may need to repeat this a lot) you could also great a visual timetable for your child if needed with pictures of what you will do in the day and stick them up in order. That way they can see what’s coming up and are prepared for meal times.