Six top tips for picky eaters
- Don’t become your child’s permanent waiter or waitress! It’s so easy to fall into this trap without realising it, and some parents find themselves forever in the role of food server to their child(ren) – hovering, coaxing and cajoling. Of course, some children love the palaver and it becomes the norm. The best way to avoid this happening is to …
- encourage your child to feed themselves from about six months old, with a variety of chewable finger foods. Don’t be tempted to spoon-feed for too long, just because it’s quicker and less messy.
- This one can make children’s mealtimes a bit longer, but makes for an enjoyable experience for you both, and pays huge dividends in the long run. As much as possible, try and sit down with your child and eat together, even if you only eat a token amount, before having your own meal later. Try to avoid always dishing out your child’s food as you stand up, leaving your child to ‘get on with it’, while you try to get on with other things. This can end up with your child feeling a bit left out, and left just to focus on what not to eat, simply to get your attention. You can end up endlessly popping across just to chivvy them into ‘eating up’ – and this can become the boring pattern for most mealtimes. It’s much more fun for you both if you can try to stop multi-tasking at your child’s mealtime, if you can, and sit down together, eat and chat. It does work!
- Don’t always put your child’s meal on a plate for them. Instead, buy an inexpensive plastic hors d’oeuvre tray (from a bargain shop) or (even more fun) a ‘Lazy Susan’ from a car boot sale. Separate the two or three kinds of food into the compartments (adding a little extra for yourself), and show your child how to serve themselves with spoons, following your example. Your child will feel grown-up and will enjoy the element of ‘choice’. Don’t worry if they don’t always eat everything and don’t fret about portion control – just relax, both help yourselves to food, and chat about other things, just as you would in adult company.
- If your child has got into the habit of playing up at mealtimes, a great way to break the cycle is to introduce them to using simple serving utensils, as well as spoons. Children find these fascinating and fun, and they develop their manipulative skills at the same time. Favourite items to pick up food are small tongs, including tea bag squeezers, plastic scissor-style salad servers and ice-cream scoops (e.g. for mashed tuna). Again, bargain shops are an Aladdin’s cave for these items.
- Now you can go on to involve your child in helping to prepare food. Favourite items here are melon ballers, salad spinners, draining spoons, potato mashers, mini egg whisks, and pastry wheels, cutters and brushes. Before you know it, you’ll have a budding Delia or Jamie Oliver in your kitchen!
If you like these ideas, you and your children will enjoy India’s Sunday Funday, an award-winning film on Child’s Eye Media’s ‘Keeping Myself Healthy’ DVD. www.childseyemedia.com