When my daughter was a baby, she ate anything and everything.
She was a veritable eating machine.
Friends complained about their children’s picky eating habits and I used to think, naively and a little smugly perhaps, that somehow I’d cracked it.
….And then, inevitably, she turned into a toddler and I realised that it wasn’t cut and dried.
And then I had another child and well, don’t get me started.
Suffice to say that at 3 and 4 years old, neither of my children willingly chow down on whole sticks of broccoli.
I can’t say I blame them, awful stuff.
Neither of them are particularly happy about vegetables or trying new things, and if they were allowed to exist off a diet of pizza and beige food then they would happily do so.
I’ve often found myself committing the sin of blending vegetables in to hide them, bribery or plain old lying about what they’re eating; none of which are really to be recommended as long term strategies (but we all do it).
So I’m by no means hailing myself as an expert on this.
However, if you do have a fussy eater, or you want to encourage you children to eat healthy food more willingly then here are some tips that work for us!
1) Time it well
Kids have little tummies and get hungry quickly which is why they ask for a snack every 24 seconds on average.
Making my children wait until after 6pm for their dinner is asking for trouble. If I’m cooking something that’s going to take a while; spaghetti bolognese or a roast dinner, for instance, then I have to remember to start it quite early in the afternoon.
Children who come to the table ravenous and grumpy are in no mood for trying new things as I have learnt many times to my cost. If they’re acting up at dinner time, try making it half an hour earlier if you can.
2) Eat around the table and set a good example
From time to time we might tuck into a pizza on the sofa in front of a film, but the rest of the time we eat at the table, and whenever we have the opportunity to sit down together as a family we make sure we do it.
Treat meals as social family time to be enjoyed, rather than as a chore which they have to complete in order to go back to playing.
I have no doubt that children watching their parents eating the same food as them can work wonders for getting children to eat well so eat your veg! And look like you’re enjoying it.
If you kick up a fuss or leave your peas until last then you can’t expect a child to happily eat them.
At the very least, if you eat together at least you can be guaranteed they’ll want what you’re eating, even if it’s exactly the same.
3) Give them a choice
Rather than ‘here is your food, eat it’ try letting them serve themselves, or if a buffet style dinner is too much effort (and I wouldn’t do it every day!) putting two different types of vegetables on the table and asking them to pick which one they’d like.
Having a feeling of control can make children more open to trying new things. And if they don’t like it, no biggie, they can try something else.
I used to hate it when my fussy eaters threw the items they didn’t want on the floor. We put little pot placed on the table into which they would place anything they didn’t want. Oddly enough, giving them this control reduced the amount they decided not to eat. At the end of the meal we would ask them to have one bite from an item in the ‘unwanted’ pot and they would usually eat it! Nikki, Glam and Geeky Mum
4) Grow you own
Getting them involved in growing fruit and veg can encourage them to try it. Beans are an easy vegetable to grow and they taste great right off the plant!
If you don’t have the garden, or the time, then visit a pick-your-own farm.
There is something about picking your own produce that makes it a bit more appealing, even for fussy eaters. Irina, Wave to Mummy
5) Get them into the kitchen
Getting them to help out in the kitchen is a great way to make kids excited about food.
My 4 year old went through a “beige only” phase with food. I encouraged him to help to prepare meals such as peeling or chopping veg or mixing ingredients. He would be so proud of what he’d made that he would eat it all. – Zoe, Lycra Widow.
We’ve joined a weekly cooking class for under 5’s in our local area, called ‘Crafty Cooks’. It’s been fantastic because not only is it a great all year round messy play/creative activity for my daughter, but she’s much more keen to try the different ingredients and whatever we’ve cooked that week then she would be at home! Siobhan, Pass the Wine Please
6) Make dinner time exciting!
Of course for younger children there is the classic ‘turn the dinner into something else’ trick.
I once turned Jude’s dinner into a big vegetabley tortoise. I think he was so stunned by the bizarre appearance that he ate a few green bits he wouldn’t usually touch. Alice, Living with a Jude.
If you aren’t artistically inclined or just don’t have the time then try some exciting grown-up crockery with their favourite characters on them and encourage them to empty their plate so they can see the picture!
7) Don’t stress
Keep trying! Children are a bit like predators; they sense nerves. I suspect anyway.
One day they might decide they like it. Until then, give them a multivitamin and know that it’s extremely unlikely that they would starve themselves. And if they still refuse, there’s always cheese on toast.
WIN a Portmeirion children’s crockery set!
If you think your little one would like a Peppa Pig George Pirate crockery set then enter the competition below!
The set comes with a china bowl, plate and mug and has an RRP of £19.99. Also available is the Peppa Pig London set; more details can be found here.
This is a collaborative post with Portmeirion, and these products were sent to me for inclusion in this post.