Have you ever lovingly prepared a delicious, nutritious meal from scratch only to have your child declare “I don’t like it!” before even trying it? You know, the same child who dubs you the “World’s Best Cook” anytime you serve those dino-shaped chicken nuggets? Well, you’re not alone.
As frustrating as it can be to have a picky eater in your midst, it’s a fairly common trait in young children. Luckily, there are ways to minimize mealtime struggles and get your children to eat a larger variety of foods. Here are 8 tips for making time around the dinner table a little less stressful.
- Don’t take refusal personally. Remember that your job is to offer wholesome, nutritious food. Their job is to eat it.
- Avoid serving the same food two days (or meals) in a row. If your child always has cereal for breakfast, and a PB&J sandwich for lunch, why should he or she accept something new for dinner?
- Don’t allow snacks starting at least an hour before the next meal. If you want your child to eat, it helps if they’re actually hungry.
- Serve small portions. A full plate of food can seem overwhelming to a child, so start small, and allow them to ask for seconds.
- Anytime you’re making something new, serve it along something you know your child will eat. Encourage them to try everything on the plate, but don’t force the issue.
- Did you know that it can take 15 exposures to a food before a child is willing to eat it? Repeatedly exposing your child to a variety of foods increases the chances that they will eventually like more of them.
- Encourage your child to smell, touch, and even lick a new food. Start a conversation about it. Do they like the color? Is it smooth or bumpy? Do they think it will be sweet or sour?
- Look at the big picture. Focus on the week, not the daily bites and nibbles, and don’t force your child to clear their plate. Children who are allowed to trust their own hunger ques are less likely to develop eating issues later on in life.
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