Do you have a picky eater in your house? That one child who will only eat read food, but not green? Or the one who won't eat veggies and just fruit? There are many different stages of the picky eater, and sometimes it is not a picky eater, but a growth spurt or something more.
We have gone through the many stages of a "picky eater" in our house with all the kids. But they haven't been just picky. Moe Man has a texture issue. This has nothing to do with the actual food, but the way he was raised the first 5 years of his life. I have had to readjust my thoughts from the get go with him! This has made it easier to for me understand the other kids when they went through their phases. Right now Baby Girl is in the middle of this stage. At least with her I know she can outgrow it, where Moe Man may have to deal with this for some time.
Little Miss is the child who has given me a run for my money! She started out as a dream eater. She would eat anything and everything. She went from nursing straight to table food and skipped the baby food stage. But when she turned 2 years old, she stopped. Just quit. She would only eat hot dogs, chicken nuggets and fruit snacks. This child taught me that the saying "They will eat when they are hungry" is not a saying you tell a parent who is worried about the food that is, or isn't, going into their child!
Ray Ray has been the good eater. I don't think he has ever had an issue with food until recently. His deal right now is no chicken nuggets. He will do chicken tenders, but nuggets are out of the question! Now this kid is the kid who NEEDS sautéed mushrooms on his t-bone steak, so I will deal with the chicken nugget issue!
Now, how in the world do you "make" your child eat their food? First off, you don't make them eat anything! They won't. No matter what you think, you won't be able to make them do it. But there are some tips on how to help them change their minds about what they do and don't eat. We have tried all the tips, some of them work for one child and not the others, some worked for all the kids. It really depends on the child. You are their parent and you are the only one who knows your child the best.
The very first thing I recommend is to read the book, French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters*. This book helped open my eyes to a lot of things that we were doing wrong and showed what the French do and why their kids truly do eat so much better than we do here in the States.
After reading that book, we made some new rules for our house. Each child has their one "no-no" food. The one food that they really don't even want to take one bite of. This food is not decided upon at the beginning of each meal, not in the middle of the meal, this is something that mom and dad have taken notice of. We have sat down with that child and talked to them about it. This is Ray Ray's chicken nugget. Little Miss has her green peppers that she won't touch. This is fine by me. This is the one food per child that I will make something different for them.
Now, we also have set meals and snacks. The kids don't get to just run to the snack cupboard and grab a snack when they want to. We like to try and space the meals and snacks out so that when the important meals come along they are hungry. We aim for a snack no later than 2 hours before the next meal. Water is fine, but the actual food has to be timed just right. This has helped us, and them, to be ready to eat a real meal and not be full from the snacks.
Now, just because we know that not all kids are the same, I want to tell you want else we try to do. We are members of the "one bite" club. This club is only for those of us who will try one bite of all the foods on our plate at every meal. Now this works well with the keep having them try the same food more than once. Just like when they were babies, you need to keep trying those foods more than once before your child can really know if they like something or not.
I like to have the children at the table. Even if they don't plan on eating what you make, I still make the kids sit at the table with us. We are a family and I expect them to sit with the family at the table for supper. But to make it fun, once or twice a month, sometimes more, I allow the kids to make the Hopkins Restaurant come to life.
What does this mean? Well, the kids plan a menu, from beginning to end. They also need to plan the ingredients, and shopping. They work together to print up a menu, they decide who has what job between the server, cook and dishwasher (I make them all work together, but one person has a name each time). When I give them the chance to be in control of the food, they seem to enjoy eating it more. Funny how that works!
While all these are wonderful ideas, I know that not everyone will work with every child. How to do you help make sure that your picky eater gets to eat?
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