We often think that mealtimes will be less stressful when our fussy eaters learn to like a wider variety of foods.
But have you ever considered approaching it from a different angle?
First make mealtimes more relaxed and less stressful (yes, this is in your control), then your child will have a better chance of learning to like a wider variety of foods.
Let’s start with what is in your control – the mealtime environment. I completely get that it may feel like it is not, but hear me out on this one.
Here are 3 things you can implement tonight that are entirely in your control and will help turn mealtimes around without a battle. These strategies have been a game changer in my household, and I am excited to share them with you:
This is really one of the most important and easy ways to make mealtimes less of a battle. Check if your child’s feet are touching the ground. If not, grab a box or a footstool and place it under their feet. The reason this is important is that your child will tire easily at the table if their feet are dangling. Think about sitting on a bar stool without any foot support, this is what it feels like. I have put a link to a great brand for a footstool at the end of this blog post.
2. Table setting:
This one works a treat. When your child comes to the table, there should be no food on their plate. Most fussy eaters will have an opinion on what is dished up for them and then refuse to try it or have a mini meltdown because of it.
When your child comes the table and there is an empty plate, there is more of a chance to get them to sit down and not have the usual response of complaining about what has been dished up for them.
So instead of dishing up for your fussy eater, use family style serving – place at least one dish on the table that your child can help themselves to. Children love feeling in control and using tongs to serve themselves is a fun way of engaging them at mealtimes. Once your child has served themselves you can add the rest of the foods – the key here is small portions, your child can always ask for more. We love Pick Plates and have these available in our online store, they are the perfect size for family style serving.
Lastly, use bento style plates – often fussy eaters can feel overwhelmed by the sight of too much food dished up for them or when food is touching and mixed. Bento style plates help to make food look more manageable and visually appealing. This is an important part of getting your fussy eater into the right frame of mind to start eating.
3. Language at the table:
Don’t immediately start talking about food or make your child the focus of the meal. If your child says “yuck” or refuses to eat or engage with the food, ignore the negative behaviour and focus on getting your child’s attention onto something else. For example, ask your child what they did at kindy/school etc. Once you have shifted their attention to something else your child will relax. Now you can draw their attention to the meal.
Make these strategies part of your daily mealtime routine and you will see how your fussy eater gradually becomes more willing to sit and engage with the food on their plate. I have certainly seen a big difference with my two fussy eaters and mealtimes are now easier and enjoyable.
The key is to be consistent and persistent!
Here are the links to products that will make mealtimes easier:
Our advice is aimed at children 3-8 years of age. Always seek individual advice suited to our child if you have specific concerns about your child's fussy eating.