Ah, toddlers. One day they can’t get enough of a certain type of food, the next they’re smearing it across their faces and tossing the remainder across the kitchen. They key to staying calm? Understand that it’s completely normal and, with time, it WILL get easier! In the meantime, here are some top tips for parents of picky eaters…
1. Make mealtimes as fun as possible!
Sit down together as a family, make up a funny dinner-time song, and generally try and make the occasion as joyous as possible. That also means no distractions – we’re talking no TVs or cell phones. These should be banned from the dinner table and replaced with a lively conversation about the day’s activities. Another great tip? Make the food fun, too! Arrange it into child-friendly shapes, like an animal or a smiley face, and encourage your tot to eat certain parts – e.g. the ‘eyes’ – as opposed to encouraging them to eat their broccoli! There are all sorts of toddler lunch ideas out there.
2. Stick to your guns
We understand it’s super-hard, but try your very best not to give up when it comes to fussy eating swaps. The minute you give in and swap your tot’s carrots with candy, they’ll have learnt an important lesson. That if they complain hard and long enough, you’ll eventually give in. Not a lesson you want your toddler or child to learn!
3. Let them help with the meal planning
This is a great tactic for slighter older children, and involves including them in the meal planning each week. You can let them choose which vegetables to include with dinner each night, for example, and perhaps let them pick out a special dessert for the weekend. Read cookbooks together and let them point out recipes they’d like to try, and give them special grown-up tasks at the grocery store, such as picking out the best-looking apples. You’ll be surprised at the change of attitude!
4. Get them involved with the cooking
Following on from the planning element, consider letting your little one help out in the kitchen. You could kit them out in a sweet miniature chef’s hat and apron, and give them suitable tasks, such as passing you ingredients or stirring something in a bowl. It might get messy but you’ll bond lots, and it’ll make them much more likely to want to finish what’s on their plate.
5. Steer clear of bribing them with treats
As tempting as it may be, dangling a treat as a sweetener on the condition that your little one finishes their food is a real no-no. Why? By ‘rewarding’ them with the treat food, what you’re actually doing is making that food even more of a prize, and the food they’re not happy with is in turn seen as something they have to ‘endure’ just to get what they want. This can turn into a vicious cycle and actually make things worse on the fussy front!