Children, as small as they are, can be strong-willed and cunning. Many of them will put up a fight just to insist on what they want. In fact, it is not uncommon to see a two-year-old kid pull off a stunt that can drive his or her parents senseless.
Actually, that is something to admire a lot of really young children for. They are relentless in making things go their way. However, if you are a parent of a strong-willed child, perhaps one of your daily struggles is getting your little one to eat properly.
Other parents resign themselves to the fact that it can be just a phase and their children will grow out of it eventually. But the thing is, this is not always the cause for some. Some little ones who may not be so enthusiastic about eating can be simply labeled as “picky eaters,” and this can lead to nutritional deficiencies thereby making them prone to health issues.
So, if you want to prevent pickiness with food from compromising your children’s health, it is imperative to address the behavior. One of the best ways to do this is by promoting adventurous eating.
The Secrets to “Adventurous” Eating for Kids
Outworking the tendency of young children to fuss about food is rarely easy. But with a few tricks, you can quash their pickiness and replace it with an actual interest in food. Here are six of these secrets:
1. Make mealtime fun
Present meals in an interesting way and trigger the curiosity of your little ones about the food prepared for them. This is a better and less stressful strategy in getting your little ones to sample new food.
Some parents even get their children’s toys involved during mealtime to encourage the little ones to try unfamiliar food. For example, they concoct a story about Elmo loving alfalfa sprouts and wanting to eat the children’s share.
It’s fun for children to be in the “company” they are fond of for mealtimes. It makes them more open to trying new things. At the same time, it creates a positive memory for them that when the same food is prepared in the future, they associate it with feelings of happiness.
2. Make meals a learning activity
If your children are learning about colors and shapes happily, it helps to use that to trigger their interest in food. Ask them what the color red tastes like. Or, is orange sweet or sour? Is circle yummy?
Or, follow a theme for your meals. For example, make lunch a rectangle-themed meal. So, prepare sandwiches sliced lengthwise, and rectangle-shaped rice crisps. Perhaps, add some milk in a tetra pack to the meal. Your children will be too interested in the theme of the meal to notice if they really liked the food or not.
It’s important to note that making meals educational also provides the side advantage of establishing your children’s new “likes.” You can expect demands for the heart-shaped, red food (strawberries) in the future.
3. Use positive reinforcement
When your children display a willingness to try something new, do not let that go unrewarded.
Sometimes, complimenting them is enough. But if you are truly happy about the “bravery” your little ones have shown by trying something unfamiliar to them and deciding it wasn’t bad, reinforce this positive behavior with their favorite dessert.
4. Combine unfamiliar food with old favorites
This is one effective way of easing your little ones into trying new flavors. Most of the time, if they can still taste their favorite food even when it’s mixed with other ingredients, they cannot help but be “accepting” of the ingredients they are tasting for the first time.
5. Present everything in bite-sized pieces
Combine different bite-sized foods on a plate and leave it for your little ones to pick from and eat. More often than not, they can be encouraged into thinking that everything tastes sort of the same. When your kids are hungry, everything on the plate is good enough even if there are bits that they like more than others.
6. Be consistent in introducing new things
Include new ingredients to your children’s meals as often as possible. This will teach them to make comparisons between what they have tried before and what they are currently being served.
When they start making comparisons, you will come to learn the “magic” ingredients to regularly incorporate into meals, and mix with non-favorites so they become more palatable to your kids.
Adventurous eaters are usually “made” – and these are some of the top secrets behind young eaters who are willing to give anything a try. Try these techniques if you want your children to transform from fussy eaters into happy, adventurous ones.