As parents of young children know all too well, kids rank as some of the pickiest eaters on the planet. While most preschool aged cuisine connoisseurs will outgrow their picky eating phase by the age of four of five, parents still need to find a way to feed them until then.
While parents should encourage their kids to take ownership of what they wear and how they play, they still need to make the decisions on what’s for dinner regardless of any protests to the contrary. Feeding your child the same preferred dish of mac and cheese every night might get him to eat, but it doesn’t provide the kind of a balanced nutrition a child needs to develop properly.
To help get your child to eat without making a fuss, it’s helpful to know the reasons behind their difficult behavior. With that in mind, here are some of the top reasons why kids are such culinary critics.
Most childhood development experts agree that a child’s picky eating habits begin when kids start to test their limits. This type of behavior, which generally occurs around the age of two, is a child’s way of expressing their own independence. While it might feel liberating for a child to say no when asked to eat, this type of rejection can quickly become tiresome to parents.
Many parents make the mistake of giving in on a certain type of food once they’ve heard no once or twice. However, many preschoolers need a new food offered on multiple occasions before they finally agree to give it a try. To help take the pressure off your little one to try something new, severe three or four familiar items along with the new food. Expanding your child’s menu becomes a lot easier when surround with familiar favorites.
Kids advance at different rates in all aspects of their development, including how quickly they master eating. While some children may master the art of chewing and swallowing early on, others may not feel entirely comfortable with solids at first. This could lead kids to enjoy easy to eat items like carbohydrates, while resisting munching down on crunchy fruits and vegetables.
If you suspect your child has issues with the texture or toughness of a particular food item, try breaking it down into even smaller, more manageable bites. You may even consider cooking certain vegetables longer to soften their texture. You should also talk with your child about how hard certain foods may be so they know in advance that more chewing is required.
Whether from portable snack containers, juice boxes, or too many Goldfish crackers, parents and caregivers have a tendency to continuously provide kids with snacks throughout the day. By the time lunch or dinner arrives, your child may resist eating healthier menu items because she has already filled up on empty calorie snacks.
To help keep your child’s appetite up, try switching to fewer, healthier snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables instead of items like cookies and crackers. If your child doesn’t have room at lunch for those carrots or stick of celery on her plate, save those items as snacks for later in the afternoon.
Unfortunately in some households the dinner table often serves as a sounding board for frustrations between family members. Arguments that spark between parents and teen or between parents can make eating seem like an unappealing option for a child. Your child may want to cut mealtime shorter so he can leave the situation or refuse to eat so he draws more attention if he feels ignored at the table. While easier said then done, taking arguments away from the dinner table can make the process of eating much easier for your child.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance family health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Melissa Beadnell, a Portland dentist.