The dreaded day has come – your child has begun to refuse to eat certain foods. They’re showing signs of picky eating and you want to show them that food is fun and that they should keep trying new things. Here are some of our favourite tips to get picky eaters eating!
Get children involved in the kitchen
Find a recipe to bake or cook with your child. Make it a special bonding experience by choosing their favourite food so that they’ll be excited to cook.
Let your child have some choice in the matter – when you’re planning a meal, include your child in the decision process. Let them pick a recipe for the two of you to make together. Alternatively, let them pick one of the sides when you’re planning a meal. If you want to give them guidance, you can ask them if they want soup or a salad so they can choose one of the two healthy options. This way your child will learn how to prepare healthy, balanced meals, while also feeling in control of their food choices.
Work to a common goal together when cooking – don’t assign them a task and leave them to it. Make sure they see the value of what they’re doing by showing them how their contributions and yours works toward a common goal.
Present food in a creative way to get children excited about eating a meal. Cutting food into animal shapes is often a simple way to do this.
Getting creative also means not cooking the same meal multiple nights a week. Children need a variety of foods to learn how to make healthy choices and also grow out of picky behaviour towards certain foods.
Have a theme night
If you’re running out of dinner ideas, have a theme night! Breakfast for dinner, taco night, or a sushi night is fun for your children because they break the norm in a creative way and allow them to experience new foods.
Gardening is a great way to teach children where their food comes from. Young children have a harder time with abstract concepts than older ones, so make the idea that their food comes from somewhere as concrete as can be. You can do this by planting a garden! Not only will your children learn valuable life skills, they will understand how food gets on the table and how to make healthy choices.
Go on a field trip
Not all foods can be grown in a garden in your backyard. Whether you are taking a trip to an orchard to pick apples, going to a dairy farm and learning to churn your own butter, visiting a pumpkin patch, or a sugar bush to tap your own maple syrup – your children can learn a lot from visiting different places where food comes from. A chance to experience how food is made and talk to the people who make the food allows children to be more receptive to the food they eat at home.
Learn through games
When you can’t go on a trip – play games to learn about food. A fun game could be blindfolding your child and having them guess what the mystery food is by touching, smelling, or tasting it. If they’re hesitant you can guess what the mystery food that they choose is! Activities that encourage them to draw their favourite foods or having them solve funny riddles about food can help children warm up to things they may have not considered eating in the past.
Make it fun!
That’s the most important part! Don’t make eating dinner a chore – for you or your children! Have fun food activities like making a wild yogurt sundae or building their own pizza. Let children experience the joy of food by having fun while preparing meals, cooking, and eating!
Looking for more resources on eating healthy and preventing picky eating in children? EatRight Ontario has plenty of activities, tips, and suggestions!
At Childventures, our nutrition program strives to build positive relationships between children and their food by providing a multi-cultural menu, adhering to Canada’s Food Guide, and getting children involved by serving all meals family style.