Tips for Fussy Eaters and Making Mealtime Fun!
Mealtimes, More than Just Food …!
Kids can be fussy eaters, or reluctant eaters, and Speech Pathology can help!
Sometimes in the rush of life, mealtimes can become just another part of the daily routine to get through. However, let’s stop and think about it..
Mealtimes are a complete experience that involve all of the senses. Think back to a time when you had an amazing meal. Maybe you had great company and the conversation was flowing. Your favourite song might have been playing in the background. You might have been eating at home, or maybe in your favourite restaurant. Think back to the smells around you and how beautifully the food was presented. Mealtimes are so much more than just the food we eat, and we can help our kids feel the same.
Now think of a not so pleasant experience. Perhaps a time you were sitting on a bar stool, rocking because of its uneven legs. Maybe it was extremely noisy and you could not hear your companions talking. You probably cannot even remember what the food tasted like. Even the best food cannot take away from a bad dining experience.
Keeping these experiences in mind, let’s think of your child’s mealtime environment.
Here are my top tips for an enjoyable mealtime
- Make sure that your child is sitting upright with their feet flat on the floor (or a box). Think of how uncomfortable it is to eat while sitting on a bar stool with your feet dangling. The same is true for children whose feet can’t reach the ground.
- Don’t stress. Mealtimes should be a relaxing, enjoyable event, where new experiences can be shared based on trusting, loving relationships. Even though you have had a busy day, it’s important not to take your time with mealtimes.
- Talk, talk, talk! Eating is a social event, so make sure that you sit with your child and talk about what is on their plate. Is the food lumpy and bumpy? Or is it smooth and runny? Does it have a strong smell? Is it salty or sweet? This is a great opportunity to talk about new foods and a great way to boost your child’s vocabulary!
- Make a mess! Getting your hands dirty and playing with food is an important way for children to learn about new foods. Act out your carrot sticks going for a ‘swim’ in gravy. Try making a snowman out of mashed potato. Use your fork to rake the garden (salad). Use your imagination to help your child explore the foods on their plate. Try not to clean your child’s hands or face until after the meal to show that it’s okay to be messy.
- Make the majority of the meal a food your child enjoys and can eat easily, and then have some small ‘try plates’. This takes the pressure off your child and gives them a chance to explore new foods, without the expectation that they eat them.
Mealtimes are a great time to bond with your child. Having positive mealtime experiences will help your child to be more adventurous and comfortable with different foods. Of course if you feel like you need some professional support to address specific feeding difficulties, please contact us, or book online!
Meg McDade, Speech Pathologist, SOS trained feeding therapist.