6 Tips to Help Your Picky Eater Love Food. The third one will shock you!

Feeding Therapy
6 Tips to Help Your Picky Eater Love Food. The third one will shock you!

 

“My child takes one to two hours to complete a meal” said one concerned parent.

“Getting my child to finish his meals is extremely difficult and stressful,” said another.

When children don’t eat adequately, it causes parents to be deeply concerned, as they are fully aware of the adverse effects of poor nutrition. Consequently, parents often insist that their child must not leave the meal table, until all food placed on their plate is emptied. When children are unable to exercise their autonomy over food and are often force fed, they associate food with fear, anxiety and stress. 

Although, every parent wants to see their child love food and grow healthy, these practices hinder a child’s positive relationship with food. As a feeding expert, here are my top six tips to help your child LOVE food!

  1. Cook together: When you engage your child in the kitchen to cook a meal, you are providing them with opportunities to touch, peel, break, or cut vegetables and fruits (of course with a toy knife if they are too young). This will help your child to explore different sensory categories such as textures, smell, and colour of the food prior to their meals. Familiarity to these sensory categories along with the opportunity to exercise control over food (the food no longer controls the child, rather it’s the other way around) can help your child be more ready to taste and eat what s/he has prepared.
  2. Encourage your child to set the meal table: When your child sets the meal table, they are able to transition with more ease from play/ study/or screen time to MEALTIME. They are able to stay more focussed on the meal, as a result.
  3. Allow your child to play with food: We are taught not to play with food and mind our manners at the meal table. On the contrary, Play is the child’s way of learning! When your child plays with food at the meal table or during play time, they are able to perceive it to be non-threatening and exercise control over it. EATING, as such becomes more fun than a chore and this is one of the best methods to help your child love to eat.
  4. Have meals together as a family at least once a day: It has become uncommon for families to eat together in the recent years. Thanks to our changing lifestyles, gadgets and other distractions! Family meals are a great way to provide a child opportunity to imitate you: in serving food, eating, relishing food and talking pleasant things. This will help your child eat without complaining and enjoy meals. Children learn more through observation than all the teaching we do. CAUTION: Do not talk about food!
  5. Let your child choose the meal portion: Children need to choose the quantity of food to be served on their plates. Even better if they can serve themselves. It is all about the AUTONOMY s/he will exercise over their food. Initially they may serve themselves lesser food as compared to your expectation; however, they will soon learn to serve portions to meet their own satiety. If you perceive your child is not eating adequate quantities of food during mealtimes, you can encourage them to have mid meals to ensure they meet their nutritional requirements for the day.
  6. Let your child decide when to close their meal: A common problem I hear from parents is: “my child takes 1-2 hours to complete a meal”. In many homes, parents lay restrictions that their child must leave the meal table only after completing the entire meal. This is force feeding! As a result, your child may associate food with fear, anxiety or dislike. On the contrary, when you allow your child to make the decision of when to close a meal, they are more likely to complete what’s on their plate! Initially they may have to trash a part of their meal; however, they will soon enjoy the autonomy and will be able to complete their meals.

These six strategies if implemented right, will help your picky eater love food. If you don’t see them progress in spite of following these tips, take professional help. We can help you with a detailed assessment to identify any underlying oral sensory motor challenges and provide interventions to rectify.

By, Chitra Thadathil (Speech Language Pathologist)

Founder & Director, Dimensions Centre for Child Development

 

 

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