“My child doesn’t want to eat their food”: a sentence that might sound like a nightmare to parents. Want to avoid that feeling? Get prepared to handle this new phase of your child’s development and check these picky eater tips for parents.
What does “picky eater” mean?
Picky eating represents a behavior in which the child (usually when they are around 2 to 5 years old) does not willingly eat the food that is offered to them.
This is a normal and expected conduct, so dealing with it as naturally as possible might save you from lots of problems and conflicts at the dinner table.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that picky eating can become a problem later on in their lives – especially if they do not create the habit of consuming food that is actually good to them from a nutritional standpoint.
As early as they have a positive connection with food, the higher the chances of them becoming adults that have balanced eating habits.
Picky eaters tips for parents
These are the basic steps we encourage you to follow as you go through the picky eating stage with your Little Explorer.
Your child might need more than 10 attempts before actually accepting and tasting new food.
Don’t put any pressure into eating something and let your child take their time to try something new.
Quit the pressure
“No-pressure” meals are based on avoiding “negotiations” with the toddler.
These can come out as: “you can’t go outside if you don’t eat”; “you won’t have dessert unless you eat all the food”; “you’re upsetting me because you don’t eat”; and the all time famous “just one more bite”.
We know that parents that use this resource are not aiming at creating this pressure over their child. But, as harmless as these sentences may sound, avoid them because this can create a negative association between eating and getting something out of that — and food is about health, not rewards.
Set the example
Toddlers are always observing and absorbing the world around them. This means that they are watching how you as a parent behave at meal time.
If you, as an adult, are a picky eater, your child might be associating your behavior as the pattern. So make sure you eat your veggies as well, and enjoy them!
Creating healthy eating habits
Now that you know what needs to be observed and the right attitude towards your child when they’re being picky, get some tips as to how to make a positive connection between food habits and family routine.
Turn meal time unto family time
Having one family meal per day is paramount when it comes to establishing connection and affection between family members.
This is also the time to avoid distractions: set an agreement on no screens during that meal.
Engage the child
Whether you’re in the supermarket choosing produce or in the kitchen preparing food and going over the prep process while you are cooking, make an effort so that the child feels they are part of that process.
Share curiosities about the food you’re cooking, tell an interesting story about it, ask which colors are each food: these are strategies that help children create a pleasant connection with food.
Trust your child’s body
At times, moms might think that the toddler is not eating enough food.
But before you jump into excessive preoccupation, bear in mind that your child won’t starve themselves: they’ll eat when they’re ready and the proper amount to sustain them.
Offer a balanced menu
If the child refuses to eat, the parent might feel concerned and go for another strategy: offer food the child likes. The thought behind it is that, at least, the little one will have something in their stomach.
As much as this tactic might come from a good intention, your child might be associating that not eating something they’re offered (like vegetables) will get them to eat other things they are more interested in.
There is no good or bad food
Don’t label food: this is something children can carry throughout their lives, and feel extremely limited by it. We are supposed to enjoy food, not be afraid of it.
Just make sure that you establish that there are certain foods you can enjoy a bigger amount of (like fruits, vegetables, grains), and those you should have less often (such as sugary treats), but are still delicious!
We hope that these picky eater tips for parents were helpful and inspired you. Now that you know your way into establishing a lively relationship between food and your child, learn more on how to choose healthy food for kids!