I am very lucky, my kids aren’t generally a problem at mealtimes, but I have experienced those moments when meals can be a trial.
In addition, I have definitely seen many of my friends battle with a fussy eater. They have tried every tactic available in order to get their children to consume a nutritionally balanced meal without a battle of wills.
The conclusion I have come to after searching high and low for solutions to help is that there may often not even BE a specific one; as with many parenting challenges, there is often no “quick fix.” Every child is different and what works for one, may not necessarily work for another.
The main thing is to try and take comfort in knowing that you are not alone with your fussy eater shenanigans. In fact, pretty much every child, at some point, will go through a fussy stage. Some “stages” may very well feel like they are going on for a bl**dy, long time as well.
Here are some tips that will hopefully help your children to eat sensibly, and may even give you a chance to keep hold of your sanity.
Enjoy mealtimes together as a family
Often work commitments and childcare can stand in the way, but you should not dismiss the importance of eating meals together. Eating your meal at the same time will encourage them to copy you, potentially eating more than they normally would AND reducing the chance of them being too fussy about what they do eat. Well, provided you aren’ too fussy of course…. Niether of my kids like tomatoes, and guess what, neither do I…. *guilty as charged*
Cook a meal together
Where possible, let your child help you prepare their meals. Asking your child to pick a recipe can be fun too You can look through the cookery books together, and then perhaps wander around the shops getting the ingredients too. Not only can all this be fun, it is mightily educational too ;-)
There are lots of activities that the children will enjoy helping you out with in the kitchen and beyond; the washing, laying the table, preparing fruit and veg (of course supervised) and letting them touch and smell foods that are new to them. I have found that the children are more focused. It also means that it is one less chore for me to complete too *bad mummy*
Reduce portion size
This may be, to some, an obvious point, but it can be neglected. Our children’s tummys are not as big as ours, so their portions should reflect this. It is far more beneficial for a child to have a small plate of food and eat it all, than be overwhelmed by a large plate and not touch a single thing.
This is one of the biggest tips I can offer; but the hardest to actually achieve.
Eating is already a stressful time for ‘fussy eaters’ so try and avoid making mealtimes even more stressful for them. Getting annoyed, cross and frustrated is unlikely to make the situation any better. Just keep reminding yourself that this phase will pass in time, and for the moment try and breathe through it.
I know, more than anyone, how difficult this actually is…but we are in it together! ;-)
It is also worth trying not to make an alternative if you child has refused something you have given them. Sometimes this can mean that they realise that if they don’t have x (say carrots); mummy will just bring them y (say chips!) anyway which I really, really like! :-D
Remove any distractions
Whilst the children are having dinner, it can be very easy to put them in front of the TV to give you some peace. As difficult as this can be, try and focus on the task in hard. Make mealtimes a social point; an opportunity to discuss the day and enjoy each other’s company. We don’t allow toys at the table either – mealtimes are for eating, and chatting and pretty much nothing else. People have remarked at how strict this can seem, particularly as we have always done this, even when the kids were tiny babies. However, it does seem to work – mealtimes are for eating, they aren’t for getting distracted by the car that mummy let me bring to the table.
I hope these tips will help you make progress with your ‘fussy eaters’. I have learnt over the years that patience and a good routine gets us all a long way.
Photo credit: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net