DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. If you like reading legal jargon my disclosure policy is here.
When your child is a picky eater, it can be extremely frustrating. What’s almost as frustrating is hearing the same advice over and over again about how to deal with a picky eater. Mainly when you’ve already tried everything everyone recommends and it all fails.
I really love when someone from the older generation tells me that I need to use desserts as a reward, or bed as a punishment. Excuse me? No. Just no. I don’t care if it worked with your kid, I know it won’t work with mine.
Let’s just say, I’ve pretty much learned to not talk about his picky eating habits with anyone born before 1955. While I understand they are trying to help, I don’t agree with their tactics.
The truth is most of the advice that I get across the internet doesn’t help. My child is a picky eater. Or at least he was. He’s getting better with age though and there were a few things that I found that did work.
So if you are pulling out your hair trying to get your toddler to eat anything besides waffles, chicken nuggets, and yogurt on a daily basis read on.
Table Of Contents
For returning visitors or if you are looking for something in specific here is an easy jump to table of contents for you. Just click the link and jump to the part in the post you want to view most. To come back there is a link after ever section to send you back to this table of contents.
- Your Attitude Towards Food
- Reaction When They Try New Food
- Offer Often
- Let Them Make Food With You
- Identify Everything
- Hide When You Can
- Sensory Bins For Texture
- Let Them Pick Out Foods
- Give Fluids After Food
Picky Eater Tips For Parents
A lot of what you are going to go through in the next 6-12 months is going to depend solely on your attitude towards food. Don’t force anything and keep your attitude nonchalant about most interactions with food.
Attitude Towards Food
When offering your kid a new food they will probably look suspiciously at it like you are offering them something that will surely poison them. The best thing you can do is keep your face neutral.
They will probably make a face, say no, or walk away from you while you are offering the new food. This is when I would say, “Cool, more for me.”
Don’t shun anything, but give them limits. When my son found his new obsession with Yogurt he would seriously try to eat container after container. So we set a limit. Only 2 single serving containers a day. He got to decide when he would eat them but once he had two he could have no more.
Keeping your reactions to food neutral really helps to instill that same reaction to food in your child. If they are afraid of trying new foods, you not showing fear towards any food makes it easier for them to not be afraid. If your kid feels disgust from a food, showing no reaction at all to it helps reinforce that it’s really not that disgusting.
Reaction When They Do Try New Foods
When your child does try new foods show some level of excitement for them. Regardless of if they like it or not, say, “I’m so glad you tried it, high five for trying a new food.” This helps them to feel encouraged in trying a new food even if they don’t like it.
If they like the food say, “See, I told you it’s good. You’re doing an awesome job about trying new things.” This continues to encourage them to try more foods.
Offer food often to them, everything you eat should also be offered to your kid. I’m not saying serve it up on a plate but offer them a bite and say, “Do you want to try?” If your kid likes it just hand them your serving and go get another serving.
The key here is to give them exactly the thing they tried, it might be the way you seasoned your serving that played a huge part in them liking it. This also helps them to gain trust in you offering them new foods to try.
This is exactly how I got my son to start eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Picky Eater Tips
Now that you know what can be done in your behavior to encourage your child to try new foods, let’s discuss some of the other things that helped my picky eater.
Let Them Make The Food With You
Something that really helped my son to try new foods was including him in food prep. He’s at least tried a few different vegetables and fell in love with my Instant Pot Mac and Cheese because he gets to help make it.
Making the food with you and then seeing the family eat it makes him feel like he did something to nourish his whole family. After a few times of making the same things they start to eat those things with you.
He’s helped me make Baked Penne several times and each time wants the noodles before they are mixed in with the sauce. He likes them with butter and parmesan cheese so when I make this dish I pull some noodles out to give to him.
In my speech delayed son something that really helped was teaching him what different things are and identifying them. Knowing the names to all the different food really helped to encourage trying those foods.
This is when you really start to use all his different senses. See the green bell pepper, say “pepper,” touch the pepper, smell the pepper, here the sound a pepper makes when being sliced, taste the pepper.
Do this with every item you can while you prepare dinner and before you know it your kid will start to taste these items too.
Hide When You Can
A lot of people say not to hide vegetables or healthy foods in other foods to get your kid to eat them. Well when you are desperate for your kid to eat healthy foods you will try almost anything to get your kid to eat them.
So hide away. Make smoothies that have pureed spinach and carrots mixed in. Make yogurt with pureed vegetables.
Our personal favorites are using Zucchini or Sweet Potatoes in baked goods. My son won’t touch a sweet potato but he’ll eagerly eat sweet potato chocolate chip muffins.
It’s not always the healthiest but I have to believe some of the good stuff is getting in there and my kid is getting more nutrition when he wasn’t eating much of anything else.
Hiding it is more about making yourself feel better than your kid. Easing mom anxiety is a win in my book.
Introduce Texture Through Sensory Bins
A lot of times a child will turn down food because the texture really bothers them. This will happen when your child eats one or two bites of food normally then all of sudden is trying to scrape their tongue.
Sensory issues often prevent kids from trying more foods and one of the ways you can encourage new textures is through sensory bins. Get a smallish plastic tote, one like this, and fill it with water beads, rice, oats, moon sand, pastas, sand, shaving cream, or anything else you can think of.
I prefer to do this outside or on an easily cleanable surface like laminate flooring. They will need to be watched the entire time to make sure they don’t eat it if your child is young. Keep a bucket of water for rinsing if you are using anything like sand or shaving cream.
Get in that sensory bin and play around with them. Hide small plastic toys in it, make it fun, just get their hands in the texture and playing with it. This introduces all sorts of different textures and gets them used to those textures.
After introducing sensory bins into our play time my son immediately started trying new foods. He doesn’t always like the new foods he’s trying but trying is what counts.
Let Them Pick
When you go grocery shopping, let them choose a few items. This small amount of control gives your picky eater the courage to try new things. A new fruit or vegetable might interest them, so buy it.
Even if they want an onion, buy the onion. Try them with something they picked that you think they’ll like more first, but try the onion. Brown them in a skillet with a little bit of salt and serve it up to see if they will like it. Chances are they won’t, we all know this, but they at least picked it out and tried something new.
Give Fluids After Food
The only piece of advice I got that actually worked was this. Your child might be filling up on fluids and not eating because they are just not hungry.
If your kid normally drinks about 6 cups of fluid a day, lower that to 5 and see if they go digging for more food. Or make them wait to drink and offer food before giving them fluids.
This one trick increased how much my child eats in a day. He was going for more food, healthy food choices, and actually eats them. Once they show they are full or walk away from their food, give them the drink.
Your Picky Eater
Having a picky eater can be incredibly stressful. You are constantly racked with guilt, worried about their nutrition, worried they aren’t gaining enough weight, worried that you are missing something.
Stop worrying mama. Chances are, and if you see your doctor often enough, your kid is doing just fine. Don’t make them eat, just let them grow into their food choices naturally. As much as we all love cake and baked goods, sometimes an apple or an orange, or a banana just hits the spot better. Your kid will get that too.
Is my son still a picky eater? Yes, however, he’s eating a lot more different types of foods now that he didn’t eat before, progress is progress and I cannot expect him to change overnight. Eventually he will eat everything we eat. It just takes patience and time.
Are you worried about your picky eater? Let me know in the comments below. Follow me on Pinterest for more like this and pin this to your favorite parenting boards.
- How To Build Independence In Your Child
- How To Use A Magna Doodle To Help Speech Delay
- How To Stop A Tantrum Fast
- Easy Chores Your Kids Can Do