by Laura Berthiaume July 13, 2021 4 min read
Picky eating can be a sensitive topic for a lot of parents. Just know that we have ZERO judgement about how you want to approach eating with your children.
We understand this will be different for every family and every child.
I’m just sharing this info because Katie, the Montessori teacher that runs ourat-home program, gets asked this question A LOT.
Our general thought is that if 10 people are asking, there’s another 100 that are wondering but don’t have the time to email us :)
Feel free to skip this one if you have a picky toddler...
The best way to minimize picky eating in children is to start with the right approach in infancy.
Whenever you decide to introduce solids, offer a variety of foods.
It can be easy to get stuck in a pattern of offering children the same foods over and over. This then carries over into toddlerhood, when it’s harder to introduce new foods.
The easiest way to get more variety in, is to offer small portions or tastes of whatever you’re eating.
At 6 months, you can also start including your infant in mealtime. Pull their highchair up to the table, offer them small amounts of food, and cutlery or dish ware at their place.
The expectation here is that they are simply involved and allowed to explore the foods and dish ware. It sets the foundation for a meal time when the family sits down all together and eats.
2. Make food about more than eating… make it an activity.
Infants and young children are sensorial learners, meaning they learn with all of their senses. Offering food and expecting they will only want to experience it through taste is truly limiting them.
You might not want to hear the next part… but one of the best things you can do to get your child more interested in new foods is to let them play with it!
In infancy, you can start by simply offering foods to play with and explore with all their senses.
For example, one of the activities in our at-home program for infants is a citrus fruit exploration basket, where a 5-6 month old is presented with a basket of unpeeled citrus fruits and allowed to explore them independently.
This gives them the chance to smell it, roll it, feel the texture of the peel, etc. You can do the same thing at meal time. Simply offer food on their tray with the expectation that they may not swallow a single bite.
In toddlerhood, you can allow the exploration to continue by involving them in food prep. Show them how to wash, chop, mix, juice, peel, and mash the food.
We have a wonderful variety of kitchen tools for toddlers that make it easier for them to help in the kitchen >https://themontessoriroom.com/collections/kitchen
3. Just Keep Offering
Don’t be tempted to stop offering a certain food because your child has rejected it once or twice.
Children may need to experience a food 20-40X before they’re ready to try it!
If you offer and they reject it, don’t make a big deal of it. You can simply say, “I guess you’re not interested right now. Maybe next time”.
The goal here is to slowly nudge them towards trying new foods. Think about it like a process rather than black and white, loving or hating a certain food.
One day, they will likely take you up on your offer :)
4. Respect The Child
This is the core of Montessori and should be no surprise that’s also part of our approach to picky eating.
Too often we were told as children to finish all our food or made to eat something.
Now we realize just how harmful this approach can be because it teaches children to ignore their hunger or satiated feelings, resulting in adults that eat past the point of being full.
This idea will also help you from becoming overly frustrated at mealtimes.
Meals don’t have to be a battle. If they don’t want to eat or finish their food, then they’ll eat at the next meal.
If they ask for snacks shortly after, remind them that we eat at meal times and they can either eat again at the next meal or you can re-heat their meal from earlier.
5. Offer a couple different types of food at each meal
This doesn’t mean offering an entirely different meal to your child, it simply means having a few different foods out, and including at least one thing you know they will like.
For instance, my son has eaten an entire meal of just roasted broccoli, which he likes. Not the most well-rounded meal but could be a lot worse!
Like point #4, it’ll also help minimize battles at meal times because you know there’s something they’ll eat and don’t have to worry about complaints 20 minutes later about feeling hungry.
6. Teach Them to Serve Themselves
Believe it or not, children can feel overwhelmed when we put too much food on their plate.
This alone can cause them to avoid eating a meal.
Show and encourage your child to serve themselves. If they take too much, just encourage them to take less next time.
This all ties back to point #5, respect the child.
Hopefully there’s at least one or two new ideas that will help make mealtimes easier!
Send us an email if you have any questions! firstname.lastname@example.org
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