Here at The Mini Makery, one of the most asked question has to be "How do I deal with my child being a fussy eater?". Now, I'm sure we have all experienced times when our children have shown challenging behaviour towards food, some more than others! But in our experience it happens to all children at some point. So, we wanted to share our top tips of what we have found to work with you.
Many people will tell you the key to raising an adventurous eater begins from an early age, and we would have to agree. It is important to get weaning off to a good start. However, it is never too late to encourage healthy eating habits, no matter how old your child is.
Lead by example.
How can we expect children to develop healthy eating habits when their role models are not eating what they preach. Children need to regularly see you eating, AND enjoying healthy, fresh foods. Children learn what is "safe" to eat based on observing you. It is unlikely you will have a veggie loving little'un, unless you are a veggie loving big'un. Make sure you try and eat together as much as possible too.
Make food fun!
When meal times diminish into a battle of wills, it is never going to end nicely for one, or both of you. We appreciate that dealing with fussy eaters can at times be very stressful, but bringing frustration and unhappiness to mealtimes is not going to help the situation. Your child will pick up on your feelings, and most likely end up feeling them too. Approach mealtimes in a fun and exciting way. Smile, laugh and enjoy them! For little people we encourage regularly playing games with food. We've played "food football", scoring a goal every time a mouthful of food goes in, and shouting "goal" as a celebration. Another good one is playing a memory game which involves the adult closing their eyes, and then having to guess which bit of dinner has been eaten from the plate. You could even pretend that you think a wizard has been and eaten it. Kids love to think they have tricked you!
Another great way to add some fun, is to make a special effort with presentation. Create food faces, landscapes, animals, whatever takes your fancy! It it a little more time consuming, however it is time well spent if it encourages your little one to eat good stuff. This works wonderfully with bigger kids who are past the game playing stages. Bring your imagination to the table and keep persevering.
Get your kids involved!
Little people love to feel that they are being a good help. Utilise this and get them helping around the shops searching for fruits and vegetables, and when preparing tea at home. One of the most successful tricks we have found, is to get some mini cookie cutters and allow them to help cut shapes out of vegetables to put into dinner. Courgettes, thin slices of carrot or parsnip, cucumber.. there are lots of options. You only have to look at how successful character pasta or spaghetti shapes are to see it really works! This works well when making something like a fruit salad for pudding, or to just add a bit of excitement to fruit snack time.
Reduce their sugar intake
It is hard to not give little ones treats from time to time. But we need to be careful that it is only time to time, and not too regularly. If you imagine that every time you have chocolate, biscuits or sweets, your taste pallet becomes used to that level of sweetness. Compare the sweetness of sugary treats to the sweetness of fruit and vegetables, and it is easy to see why kids will choose sugar laden treats over fruit. Yet fruit is plenty sweet enough! If you can keep treats to a minimum, you will find over time that fruit becomes more appealing as their taste buds become accustomed to a reduced level of sweetness. Their bodies will thank you for it too, as they will get a wealth of vitamins and minerals from lovely fruit that they wouldn't have gotten from sweets and chocolate.
We know from first hand experience, that playing with food outside of mealtimes is an excellent way to give your child positive experiences with a variety of foods. We share regular craft ideas in our newsletter that are are a perfect way to put some fun into their food. Playing in a non pressurised environment, is a great way to teach your little ones about where food comes from, how it is grown and why it is good for you. Educating your kids and allowing them to explore new foods, without the expectation to eat it, often leads them to want to try more. This can take time, but we believe that if you craft with food as often as you would paint or glitter, you are on the road to nurturing a fuss free eater.
It may appear that the tactics you are trying are not working. The key is not to get disheartened. Undoing fussy eating can often be a long road. Some kids are more receptive to it, and some take more time. It can be frustrating when food goes to waste, but it is vital that you keep offering a variety of fruits and vegetables and making them fun!
We wish you luck on your food adventures with your little people. As always we are here to help and support. Feel free to comment, ask questions or even share, if you know of someone we could help!