Fussy eating in children is a common complaint of many parents, so if you’re visiting this blog page to seek advice, know that you’re not doing anything wrong! Childhood is all about experiencing new things – and some children are just more adventurous than others with food! That being said, there are plenty of ways to encourage positive attitudes to all foods and encourage a fussy eater.
What does ‘fussy eating’ look like?
There are many different ways that children might become ‘fussy’ toward food. Some children, for example, are set in their ways early on – they know that sweets and chocolate tastes good and they’re less likely to eat anything green or anything that might look like a vegetable. Children can also develop firm favourites and become obsessed with having the same foods over and over. Lots of children also choose where they explore food and may be more open to trying new foods in nursery, at a friend’s house or most comfortable doing so at home.
Where am I Going Wrong?
Parents can be quick to blame themselves and look for where they might have gone wrong for their child to become a fussy eater. It’s important to know that there’s no one to blame, children’s development can pause or regress for a number of reasons. You’re here reading for advice, so you’re doing the best you can!
If your child seems fussy at other’s houses or at nursery, it might be that they aren’t comfortable with social dining yet, so eating round the table or with guests is a great way to increase the regularity and normalise social eating.
Friends for Dinner
Children are good at encouraging each other and, whilst they are developing their social skills, they often copy each other. This can be a great tool when it comes to fussy eating! Pair them with friends who are adventurous eaters and it’s likely they will follow suit!
Increase Variety of Food
Fussy eaters can get in a rut of eating the same dinners over and over, so try to switch up your go-to meals for more variety. Make eating new foods exciting by learning about different fruits and vegetables and where they come from and the seasons they typically grow in and all try new things together. That way your child feels like they are joining in on something, rather than it being a solo experiment!
Remain Calm and Happy
From 6 months old, children understand they are agents of action and that their actions have consequences. They can pick up on your anxiety or concern at mealtimes and adjust accordingly. This can then be increased if you develop a pattern of giving in. It’s therefore important to remain calm and collected at dinner and not let on that you have any concerns over what’s on the plate today.
Tastes can Change
It’s good for the whole family to know that children often need to taste a food between 12 and 30 times to familiarise themselves with it. It is therefore something to offer repeatedly. Explore texture, touch, smell, colour and taste frequently.
Make it Fun!
There are a lot of ways to encourage fun at food times. Lots of parents create animals or landscapes and fun shapes with different types of food, so it provides something for fussy eaters to look at. This can make mealtimes and snack times exciting and even encourage them to stop thinking of individual food types and instead enjoy them as part of a whole.
Focus on Food Groups
We know it would be perfect if your fussy eater would love broccoli or rice, or whatever you are trying to introduce, but sometimes it just can’t be forced. If all else fails on a new food, focus on the food groups. As long as your child is eating from all good groups, the nutrition is the same, whether they are eating broccoli or green beans!
As you have probably experienced yourself, people and their tastes can change over time so don’t worry too much. What’s most important is a balanced diet and nutritious food! At Bright Little Stars, nutrition plays a big part in our care!