Working in a school I come across many children that don’t want to try new foods. Children have there reasons for not wanting to try new foods. It can be because they don’t like the colour of the food, the smell or that the food is similar to a food they already know they don’t like. Here are some of my tips and tricks when dealing with fussy children.
DON’T pressure them. If a child is adamant that they don’t want to try that food today, then leave it and go back to it the next day or another time. If a child feels pressured to eat foods they’re not sure about then it can cause them to close up. This can result in a child automatically taking a dislike to meal times and becoming nervous and withdrawn.
Change the food or prepare it differently. For example if a child doesn’t like boiled potatoes trying mashing them with a fork, the child may prefer that texture.
Rewards and praise will go a long way. Praise and rewards help children to feel proud of themselves for trying something new. I found sticker books work very well. Over a course of a week, the child will get a sticker every time they try a new food or eat a lot of dinner etc. If the child manages to get 5 stickers that week then they will receive a little reward. Personalising the sticker book yourself, will help the child feel more connected to it. For example if a child adores dinosaurs, then put some pictures of dinosaurs on the front with their name on it, so they can say its their sticker book.
The rewards I would use in the school environment were either small toys ( like wind up toys), small sweets (with the parents permission) and little craft kits where they could make something of their own. You can talk to parents and get them involved as well by continuing the chart at home or allowing the parents to chose the reward- for example more TV time. Communication is so important as well as continuing to praise the child, by saying how well they have done and how proud you are of them.
Talk to the child about other things that doesn’t involve food in order for the child to become more relaxed, ask them what they did that day or who they played with. Slowly start to introduce the idea of trying the food by cutting into small pieces, so it doesn’t look as intimidating. Even if the child takes the smallest bite possible its still progress, praise them for it! Keep continuing to do little bites every meal time, in hopes that the child will automatically start to eat the food.
If in a school environment praise the children sat around them for eating their dinner, and say how happy you are that they are doing so well. The child will want the same kind of praise and may try to eat more of their dinner.
If a child says they don’t like the food after they have tried it, don’t continue to get them to eat it. Everyone, even adults have foods that they really don’t like. I always say to the children at work- i’m happy as long as you try the food and don’t just say you don’t like it when you haven’t tried it.
Everything will come along in time, just have patience! I hope these tricks helped. Leave any comments on what you find helps best when dealing with fussy eaters.