Written by guest contributor, Jennifer Stone, of Yumble
A Guide to Making Food Fun for Picky Eaters
Getting a picky eater to eat lunch and dinner can be a real struggle. Serving the same plain noodles gets old really fast, especially when you’re concerned about the level of nutrition your child is getting from eating a super limited diet. While it’s endlessly frustrating to wonder why your child isn’t enjoying your homeschool meals, it’s important that you keep a level head and try to make mealtime as stress-free as possible.
When your little one feels relaxed and there is an incentive to try new foods, they will be more likely to partake in eating. With the ideas below, you can get creative, get messy, and get crazy at the table, encouraging your picky eater to have a little fun with their food.
Taste the Rainbow
One way of making food seem more fun is to make it colorful. While your picky eater is not likely to start eating broccoli because it’s green, you might be able to get them to eat purple applesauce or blue pasta. Add their favorite color to a new food and see if they will give it a try. All you need to do is squeeze a few drops of food coloring into their meal to make it kid-approved.
Make it Mini
Everything is cuter when it’s small, right? Your child thinks so! Take this universal truth and apply it to food by making everything bite sized. From mini pancake skewers with slices of banana and strawberries to crunchy mac and cheese muffins, good things do come in small packages.
Create Favorite Characters
Bring your child’s favorite characters from movies, tv shows, books, and games to life at mealtime. From healthy Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets to a Chicken Parm-asaurus, there are infinite ways of making their food more special. If you really want to up the ante, have the whole dinner be themed with balloons and a special guest appearance from someone in the family dressed as a character.
What do you get when you combine a pizza with a hot dog? A happy kid, that’s what! Mix up mealtime by twisting favorite foods together to get delicious hybrids that will make the whole family smile. For example, you can try spaghetti and meatball tacos or a pizzadilla.
Pick Silly Names for Food
When you’re introducing a new food to your child, make it seem more appealing by naming it something silly. For example, you can call spaghetti “mermaid hair” and hot dogs “pigs in a blanket.” Another idea is to add your child’s name to foods, like a Peanut Butter and Jeremy Sandwich, a Samburger with Cheese, or a Tiny Tina Taco. If you want to take this idea to the next level, you can cut the food into letters to spell out their name to make it even more personalized.
Kids love eating with their hands; it makes mealtime feel playful. Let them be their most creative by setting out a lot of finger foods and dips to go with them. This also gives your child choice, rather than constricting them to only eating what you have put on their plate.
Have Them Help
Let your child be your special helper who stirs foods in the kitchen, sets the table, and adds table decor like fresh flowers they picked from your garden. By including them in the pre-mealtime setup, they’ll be more interested in participating in your mealtime. Knowing that they helped make the food will likely encourage them to try it.
The key to achieving a successful, calm lunch and dinner with your kids really boils down to patience. Don’t give up, even after a temper tantrum or another dinner where your child refuses to eat. If outside help is required, turn to services that offer feeding therapy to expand your child’s palette. They will eventually come around and making them feel relaxed at the table, rather than pressured to eat, is ultimately the best strategy to manage picky eating.