6 Tips for When Your Child Won't Eat
Young children typically have a very strong opinion about many things, including what they want (or don't want) to eat. If it only happens on occasion, that's one thing, but what if your child consistently turns away food or refuses to eat anything accept chicken nuggets? It's very easy to get frustrated or end up in the Wendy's drive-thru on a daily basis, but don't worry - we have some tips to help get you and your child back on track with eating. As with everything else, rule out any medical/swallowing/gagging issues first!
1. Keep it positive.
Getting angry or trying to force your child to eat isn't going to make anything better. The goal is to make meals fun and stress-free (which I know may be hard to imagine right now). The old saying "you'll sit there until you're done" isn't the best way to encourage your child to try new things or to enjoy mealtime.
2. Involve your child in the process.
It can take repeated exposure to new foods before a child will even try it, so including your child in the process of cooking can get him more interested in the new item. If he can't help with the cooking, what can he do? Squish a blueberry? Help you pick out a green vegetable at the store? Get creative!
3. Try new foods together.
Go to the farmer's market or Costco and try samples together. Talk about what you like (or don't like) about different foods. If you want your child to try new things, it helps if you are open to it as well.
4. Create structure around mealtimes.
This means sitting at the table together and eating. Maybe setting a timer for how long your child has to sit at the table before getting up. It doesn't mean he has to eat everything on his plate, but if he tends to pick at it for a couple minutes and is then "done", he might eat a little more with more time.
This also means that there are certain times for meals and snacks and that's it (and be sure the rest of the family follows this rule, too). If a child is able to constantly graze, he may not be hungry at mealtimes.
5. Give your child choices.
As I mentioned above, a child may have to see something or touch something several times before he will put it in his mouth. We also know that when you give your child choices, he is more likely to comply. So instead of the choice being "do you want mashed potatoes or not?", the choice is "do you want a small spoonful or a big scoop?", and it just has to sit on the plate. You can give your child these choices for all of his food, not just for things he doesn't like.
6. Make sure he gets enough exercise.
If you get your child outside to play for an hour or so a day, he is going to be hungry!
Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater by Nimali Fernando & Melanie Potock