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Is your child a picky eater?

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Why is my child so fussy at mealtimes? Well, there are a number of reasons why your child might throw their plate on the floor; from parental control, to lack of exposure to textures, flavours and prolonged spoon feeding at key age. Or it could simply just be your child being a child. An important point to remember is that all young children go through a phase of picky eating. It is a phase of neophobia, in other words a fear of new foods which can last a few years. Toddlers also have a slow growth rate compared to infancy (and therefore less hunger) and a strong drive to practise new skills, being in control and testing boundaries.  



Bamboo weaning set


There is however a large body of research that shows children are capable of learning new skills and improving their behaviours at the table and the variety of food in their diet. Remember, reversing picky eating is all about setting loving and healthy boundaries, consistency (and there definitely be tantrums), routine and taking small steps towards learning about and trying new foods. 


While in many cases children can change their eating habits, some children will end up dealing with picky eating, no matter how much you support them. That’s because there are different things we all bring to the table like personality traits or sensory processing that impacts how children feel about food and how much they enjoy eating. 


So let’s get to it! Here are some good strategies on how you could turn picky mealtimes into an enjoyable family time. 



Routine

Often, the children who are not eating well are the ones snacking throughout the day, and this impacts their hunger at mealtimes. Embedding a mealtime routine with no snacking outside of schedule will make a huge difference to your child's mealtimes, as it will ensure your toddler sits at the table hungry ready to eat. 


Set tasks

Children love to be in control, so why not involve them in preparing the meal. Simply stirring the pot or choosing a plate will distract your child from the thought ‘it's that dreaded dinner time again,’ and actually enjoy the process and look forward to trying the food they were involved in preparing. You could give your older children the responsibility of setting up the table, serving own portions or even choosing ingredients at the shop. Allowing your child to feel involved in decision making around their needs will not only make them feel valued but also be in control of how much they eat, and while they might make mistakes about it and end up feeling hungry, they must learn about how their choices impact them. We know it is scary as we want the best for our children, however, it is a natural consequence of toddlers' choice and an important life skill to learn. And don’t we learn best from our own mistakes? 


Family meal times

Eating as a family and serving the same food for everyone is a powerful tool to prevent picky eating in toddler years. Children learn from observing their environment and therefore us parents must set the best example and be good role models. Remember to focus on exploration and not consumption. Children are natural explorers who love to touch, smash, stir, smell and much more so you are more likely to succeed with exploration. 


Minimise distractions

Turn off all devices and tidy up all the toys. Sitting together with your child with no distractions will extend the time they are willing to sit down for a meal. Refrain from pressuring your child to eat, avoid commenting on how much they are eating, and instead focus on conversation. Also, remember not to praise your child for eating as this can feel like a pressure and detract their internal hunger. Instead, try focusing on their skills -‘You picked the peas so well. They can be tricky to pick with a fork!’


Make it look fun

And what a better way than using our SILLYBOO meal time essentials.


And most importantly...

DON'T GIVE UP! We are all in this together :) 


Below you'll find some helpful phrases to communicate with your child at mealtimes.


  • Instead of: 'Would you like to try this?' Try: 'What do you think this tastes like?'


  • Instead of: 'Well done, you ate your carrot.' Try: 'You weren't sure about the carrots but you tried them!'


  • Instead of: 'Did you like it?' Try: 'What did you notice about the food? Was it cold or hot ? did it remind you of anything you've eating before ?'


  • Instead of: 'Take one more bite.' Try; 'I like to mix my chicken with the mash to make a perfect bite.'


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