A reluctant eater, or ‘picky’ eater as some people call them can have huge difficulties in eating a wide variety of foods. It can be caused by a whole range of things, from conditions such as AFRID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder), autism, or just a reluctance in trying different things.
As a parent, you want your child to eat a nutritionally balanced diet and to enjoy a wide range of foods, and when you have a child who only eats a small choice of foods, it can be difficult and frustrating.
For some children, it is nothing more than a phase. It is common in toddlers and often passes relatively quickly. For other children, it lasts a lot longer and can be more restrictive. For the latter, it is advisable to seek the support of medical professionals. However, if you think it is more likely to be a phase, perhaps age-related, here are some tips to support your reluctant, or ‘picky’ eater.
Let your kids play with their food
Many of us have been brought up with the mantra of ‘eat your food, don’t play with it’, but actually, if your child is engaging with food – even if it isn’t been eaten – it can be a hugely positive step. You only have to look at the popularity of messy food play and sensory play. Sensory issues are often the root cause of food issues, so if they can explore their spaghetti, mash potato, or whatever, it can help to grow familiarity with the food.
Discover new recipes together
Sometimes, there can be a control issue, with children feeling like they do not have a great deal of say in what they are served for dinner. Talk to them about the meals that they want to eat and discover some new recipes – perhaps one for delicious Singapore rice noodles or a yummy curry,
Change the scenery
Live by the beach? Go and have breakfast there. Have a park across the street? Pack up your supper and have it there. Eat on the living room floor on a picnic blanket, have a picnic in bed – just make it a bit different and exciting. You could also make the dinner table interesting. One night you could have a Harry Potter style feast, another day put out the fancy china and cake stands and all dress up for dinner. Sometimes, adding some novelty can encourage a child to eat and try new foods.
Invite an adventurous eater over for dinner
Does your child have a friend who eats anything and everything? Invite them over for dinner. Peer pressure can be extremely effective when it comes to food. If they see their friend eating something that they don’t typically eat, they are much more likely to try it themselves.
The best advice, however, is to not make a big deal about it. Most children will grow out of a picky phase without additional help and for those that don’t – there is professional support out there to give you and your child advice.