Feeding kids is a tough gig. I know this personally because I have three of them, all with different tastes, preferences and quirks. A meal that is happily gobbled up one day could be completely rejected the next, and willingness to taste a green or red vegetable could switch on a dime depending on the time of day, mood or environment. This type of “picky eating” is all normal. Erratic and unpredictable are two terms that I use often to describe my kids’ eating, and I know I’m not alone.
There’s one strategy, however, that works like a charm to get my kids excited to come to the table and eat (and will likely work with yours too), and it’s really simple:
Make. It. FUN.
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about spending hours preparing Pinterest-worthy meals or ridiculously time-consuming snacks that are shaped like flowers or rainbows (who really has time for that??), I’m talking about quick, simple steps to making mealtime more interesting and appealing to your child.
Here are two of my tried-and-true ways that make mealtime more fun in our house (and entice my kids to eat more!):
1) Serve meals “family-style”:
Research shows that when you let your child have a hand in making a meal or snack, it increases the chances of them eating it (particularly vegetables!). This doesn’t have to mean that you spend hours teaching them how to cook from an early age, or even involve them in the cooking process at all (even though I think this is very valuable too). But it could simple mean that you let them “build” their own meal from the components that you’ve set out or prepared already. You choose the meal (let’s say homemade pizza for example), set out all of the components (pizza shells, sauce, chopped up veggies, meat, cheese etc.) in individual bowls, and your kids choose which ingredients they would like and prepare their own pizza. After they’re done (and don’t get me wrong–there will be more of a mess than usual), you stick it in the oven!
Does it take a bit more time and patience? Yes. But trust me when I say that it’s 100% worth it. It makes the meal so much more fun for your kids and definitely increases the chances of them trying out some new ingredients and actually eating what they’ve created (after all, they have some control, which is what they are usually craving).
2) Try some new plates, bowls and utensils:
By simply changing up your child’s tableware once in a while (to something a little more fun), you’ll boost the chances of them actually enjoying the meal and eating it! I will never forget weekend breakfasts at our house when I was growing, when my dad would make “animal” pancakes, shaped as our favourite animals, and my mom would serve up poached eggs in a cute little monkey ” egg holder”. There was something about those egg holders that made poached eggs taste that much better and breakfast that much more fun.
I’ve discovered recently that kids’ tableware has come a long way since when I was a kid, when the lovely folks over at Uncommon Goods sent my kids some new (and super fun) plates, bowls, placemats, cups and utensils. My five-year-old son was more than excited when he opened the package of new dinnerware and utensils for him and his sister, and couldn’t wait to test them out. He was definitely most excited about the Chew-Chew Train set, because he loved trains…
…but he was also stoked about the construction plate and utensils.
My three-year-old daughter was thrilled to wake up from her nap and have a new chalkboard placemat that she could colour on before dinner. How fun is that?!
This new fun tableware gives my kids a sense of playfulness and creativity when it comes to their meals, which I love. Mealtimes should be positive, no matter what is served and how much is eaten. Every positive experience that a child has with a food can act as one step closer to accepting and loving it down the road.
As the mom, I love that my kids are excited to come to the table and explore (and eventually eat) their foods when I serve them in these new fun plates and bowls. I can serve the same nutritious, simple foods that I usually serve, only now they feel like mealtime is much more fun (and they tend to eat more too!).
The number one tip that I give parents of picky eaters is to make mealtimes more fun, enjoyable and pressure-free. Most kids will go through a picky eating stage (or several), which can be frustrating for parents. But, it’s important to remember that it’s normal, and that most kids are getting what they need nutrition-wise by the end of the week, even if they are picky. Keeping the dinnertime atmosphere positive and pressure-free will increase the chances that your child’s picky eating phase will pass sooner and will boost your child’s relationship with food in the long run.
Disclaimer: this post was sponsored by the folks at Uncommon Goods who so kindly provided me and my kids with this cool kids tableware. There are also baby and kids products that you can purchase from this site. All opinions, as always, are my own.