I am no children’s expert, but I am a mum of two girls who have swung between exploratory eaters to fussy eaters and everything in between. If there’s one thing I know about kids and food it’s that they can be unpredictable and a favourite food one day can be met with a screaming tantrum the next. It’s just kids, innit?
Seriously though, Baby Girl is going through one of her fussy phases at the moment and it’s DRAINING. There’s nothing more thankless than spending time pouring all your love into a meal, only to have it quite literally thrown back in your face. It’s enough to drive a woman to fishfingers and chips for the next five years straight.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to make her live off fishfingers and chips forever more. We’ve been through this before and I know there’s a high chance the food she disdainfully turned her nose up at this evening will probably be her favourite dish tomorrow.
If you’re currently struggling through a fussy phase there are a few things I’ve learned which might help. I’ve been working with Organix this year as an ambassador, and they have some really useful tips for encouraging healthy eating in toddlers too, so it’s worth checking these out.
1. Keep it social
Baby Girl will be two on Thursday (HOW is this even possible?! etc etc). She is a really sociable little thing and is pretty much guaranteed to eat better when she’s with other people. With this in mind we try to eat together as a family most evenings, and we often do toddler lunch playdates. In fact, we did one just today as she had a friend over. Here’s how it went…
2. Keep portions small
Imagine someone put a huge steaming bowl of bright pink alien food in front of you and ordered you to eat it. Would you want to? You can’t really blame your toddler for being wary then.
One of the big things Organix recommends is to make sure you’re offering the right portion size to start off with. Often our expectations of what a kid should eat don’t fit with what they actually need. Keeping portions small to start with can be a great way to gradually encourage your little one to be more adventurous with food.
3. Get tots involved in the prep process
Baby Girl has recently started showing more of an interest in what actually happens in the kitchen. She likes to “help” stir things, press buttons on the microwave, get things out of the fridge etc. She’s also really into helping in the garden and I find she’s definitely more open to trying veg she’s picked herself from our vegetable patch. I guess it’s not rocket science, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re at the height of stress from a fussy phase.
4. Get the timing right
There’s a short window with every meal, before Baby Girl completely loses the plot and verges into tired meltdown mode. Lunchtime and teatime are the worst, because they’re so close to when she goes to sleep. In the past, we’ve found bringing forward the time of these meals can help with how open she is to trying new food.
(Weirdly, on holiday we gradually ate later and later and it didn’t seem to bother her – she tucked into mussels, snails, all sorts of exotic French food with gusto. But at home it’s a different story. Maybe we just need to move to France…)
5. Make it fun
You don’t need to present each meal with an accompanying song, or even create works of art out of your kids’ food. But just having a positive and cheerful temperament (no matter how much you’re dying inside) can make for a happier meal time which can lead to more adventurous eating.
We try really hard as a family to avoid conflict at the table, so we don’t force our kids to eat stuff they’d rather not, and we never make them sit in front of their food until it goes cold, no matter how long we’ve spent cooking it. It might sound soft, but the alternative feels a bit Victorian for us, and having a happy atmosphere definitely helps from turning mealtimes into danger zones of stress.
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Thanks to Organix for providing the inspiration behind this post and for sending us some of their tasty treats in the Goodies range. You can find out more about the range here. As mentioned in the post, I’m an Organix ambassador this year, although all words and opinions above are my own. To find out more about how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.