Dinner time in households with children can be a time of arguments, nagging, tantrum and fuss, all in the name of encouraging children to choose to eat the foods we want them to eat.
Parents and other carers are always on the lookout for tips and strategies to make mealtimes a little less painful, but what many people don’t realise is that there are ways of helping children develop interest in the foods that they avoid away from the table, even away from real food!
Select books your child has shown some interest in or surprise them with a totally new book that features food or cooking.
Look for books that DO NOT teach or preach healthy eating. You want to avoid lecturing, but instead provide fun with a potential for learning.
The Superheroes on Your Plate is a good one as it is fun and describes the characteristics of the foods without mentioning how healthy they are.
Collage and other art crafts with paper cutouts
Give your child old magazines, cooking books or even Coles and Woollies catalogues to cut out foods and make collage pictures, to glue them on a paper plate or simply sort them out in food categories such as drinks, fruit, vegetables, meats, breads etc.
Supermarket catalogues cutouts for collage.
Videos/tv programs featuring foods and cooking
Make it a family thing by watching it together. It has the potential to generate conversations. This is a great opportunity to fulfil the kids’ curiosity and answer questions. The magic is in avoiding lecturing them, and instead simply enjoying the moment together.
These activities allow children to learn characteristics of foods that they may not notice on the plate because they are trying to avoid to even look at it. It provides an opportunity to explore foods without the anxiety of being asked to “try it”.
Having the opportunity to explore the different ways a particular food is eaten, where it’s produced, how it’s cooked, special occasions it’s served etc may be the nudge your little one needs to finally give it a go.
Children can be sceptical about foods they are not very familiar with as they don’t know if they are going to like it or not. So, giving them some time to learn all they need to learn about a particular food before they feel confident enough to eat it may pay off in the long run.
Written by Fern Rodrigues, childhood avoidant eating specialist at Eat Play Learn Nutrition. She offers one-on-one programs for families that are ready to take control of their children’s nutrition with confidence.
- Exposure to foods’ non-taste sensory properties. A nursery intervention to increase children’s willingness to try fruit and vegetables (Study, 2014, UK/Malaysia).
- VeggieSense: A non-taste multisensory exposure technique for increasing vegetable acceptance in young children (Study, 2021, UK).
- Peas, please! Food familiarization through picture books helps parents introduce vegetables into pre-schoolers’ diets (Study, 2018, UK).
- Watching TV Cooking Programs: Effects on Actual Food Intake Among Children (Study, 2020, Netherlands)
- Responsive Feeding Therapy: How the RFT Framework Can Enhance Your Practice (Course, 2022, UK/USA). Cormack, Rowel, Moreland & Berry
- Picky Eaters vs Problem Feeders: The SOS Approach to Feeding. (Conference, 2022, Brisbane). Dr. Kay Toomey, Dr. Erin Ross and Susan Kniffen