If your children turn their noses up at even the most delicious dishes, you know what a frustrating battle mealtime can be.
Sometimes it feels like no matter what you try, they’re determined to never take another bite. Ever. So what can you do about picky eaters, assuming you don’t want to trade your kids in for another model?
Other than pouring yourself a glass of wine (which might not hurt you, but probably won’t help the kids much), you can try these tricks to entice your kiddos to pick up their forks and de-stress dinner for the whole family.
We’ve all looked at a dish and wondered, “What the heck is that?!” Take the guesswork out for your little one and show them exactly what goes into their food. Whether you let them stir for a few minutes or have them pour ingredients into a bowl, giving them some hands-on time removes the mystery and makes them feel more invested in the meal. They’ll feel more comfortable with foods that might otherwise be foreign, and more willing to eat them later. And this tip doubles as a fun way to spend time together!
2. Set a Good Example
You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? Our kids are tiny sponges soaking up and mimickingthe behaviors of those around them. When they see mom and dad enjoying their veggies, they’ll want to join the fun. This doesn’t mean you should go overboard and become a used car salesman for veggies — those sponges are smarter than we sometimes think — but make a point to sit down and enjoy the same food you’d like your kids to eat.
3. Maintain Set Mealtimes
Humans are creatures of habit, so maintaining a set schedule is huge for kids. Make an effort to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at a specific time each day. Your child will become accustomed to the schedule, and will eventually ease into meals.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Turn off the TV, pause the video game, power the phone down and bookmark the page. If there’s something more interesting than the plate in front of them, kids’ minds (and bodies) will wander off. Ensure eating is the only thing to be done, and prevent interruptions when possible. And enjoy the bonus of a good opportunity for family conversation!
5. Get Creative
Kids — like all of us — are drawn to visually appealing things. Make your meals about more than the food — create a whole experience! This can be as simple as arranging things in the form of a smile, tossing a little food coloring in with mashed potatoes for a kaleidoscope starch, slicing an orange into a sun, or even baking rolls in the form of turtles! Use your imagination to turn simple ingredients into captivating morsels they’ll gobble up quickly.
6. Keep the Tone Positive
It can be tough, but try not to let on mealtime can feel like a battleground. Make reasonable accommodations to your kids’ preferences, but remember if you’re serving good food, eventually they’ll come around. As kids age, their tastes naturally develop, so picky eating usually resolves itself with time. Keep mealtimes positive and cheerful — and remember who’s in charge. (You are, just in case you forgot!)
Dealing with a picky eater is stressful work. And while every family is different, these simple tricks have helped even stubborn mouths open up — give them a try!