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Fussy eating is perfectly normal, but it can be difficult to deal with from a parental point of view. Whether it’s the shape, texture or colour of certain foods that puts them off, it’s amazing the kind of things the average toddler will reject (and the odd reasons for their decisions!)
Dealing with a fussy eater in your family? Not sure what to try next? Here are some top tips for dealing with fussy eaters, and encouraging them to experiment with new foods:
Prepare Healthy Meals Together
One of the best ways to prevent fussy eating is to bring your child into the kitchen and prepare fun and healthy meals together. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes, whisking eggs to make an omelette and chopping soft fruit to make a fruit salad are all safe and simple tasks that children of any age can enjoy.
When they have prepared the food themselves, and seen the ingredients being used, most fussy children are much more likely to try new thing (even if they don’t persevere and eat the whole meal the first time round!)
Limit Meal Times
Limit how long your child must sit up at the table for each meal. This will relieve the pressure from both of you, and stop meal times from becoming a pressure cooker of emotions. 20 minutes should be long enough for even the slowest of children to eat a meal without becoming frustrated. Anything longer than 20 minutes is too long, and will stop being fun for everyone.
After the time is over, take the food away and don’t be tempted to offer snacks or treats until the next meal time. Often fussy children prefer to snack between meals and will avoid eating a full meal if they know that the snacks they prefer will soon follow.
Choose Fun Crockery
If your child isn’t excited about mealtimes then another great tip is to encourage them to choose their own cutlery, crockery, and other mealtime supplies. You can find cups, plates and baby bandana bibs in a wide range of bright colours, cartoon characters and designs. Letting your toddler choose their own will encourage their independence, as well as ensure that they are excited about eating their dinner so they can see the truck (or princess, or Disney character) on the bottom of their plate.
This also helps your child become a part of the mealtime process, and gives them some control over how they will eat.
Encourage Quiet Times
Often toddlers are distracted at mealtimes and are just too busy focusing on other things to eat their food. If you think that distraction might be a problem for your child then encourage them to have five minutes to sit still and calm down before dinner is served. Tidy the toys away, turn the TV off, and remove all distractions and obstacles from the situation.
Children love routines: they thrive on them. Even simple routines, such as packing their toys away and washing their hands before dinner can be a great physical reminder that mealtime is approaching and encouraged a changed attitude and new behaviours.