The dining table is a common battleground for many families; with fights over food all too regular. Here are the expert tips to help ease the angst of dealing with fussy eaters.
According to parenting expert Kathryn Mewes, all children between the ages of two to five develop fussy eating tendencies. Whether or not this comes and goes as just another developmental stage is based largely upon how you handle it—because it’s not actually about food, but boundary testing.
Kathryn stresses that you shouldn’t become a short order cook to steer clear of complaining: “I always tell older children that it is not realistic to think you can always have your ‘favourite’ foods,” she says.
Here is an action plan to put into place before you dish up:
- Compose a meal plan and let your tot know what will be on the menu so he has time to mentally digest what will be served up come supper time.
- Eat together—but don’t fixate on the food. Have a chat, catch up on the day. If he doesn’t eat, don’t make a big deal; it’s your responsibility to offer a wholesome meal, it’s his to eat it.
- Be accommodating with your meal plan—in that you make space for at least one thing your child knows and enjoys (then you can ease up on the fear he’ll starve from stubbornness). An accompaniment of favourite fruit is always a good idea, too.
- Bear in mind that it takes at least six times of plating up a new food before a child will feel trusting enough to taste-test it. (Batch cooking can come in handy, here.)
- Kathryn advises you give 20 minutes, and if the food hasn’t been touched, it’s unlikely it’ll be eaten. Clear the table, and let your child know there’s nothing on offer until breakfast.
- If he hasn’t started to eat after 20 minutes at the table, it’s unlikely he’s going to eat. Clear the table and let him know the kitchen’s closed until breakfast.
- The golden rule is that your tot is actually hungry before meal time—keep snacks embargoed at least 2-3 hours beforehand.
- Now it’s time for you to relax—and eat!