Having your child finish their meals may seem like a big deal most nights. Depending on how picky your child and/or children are, the last thing that you want to do as the parent and/or caretaker is prepare separate meals for separate family members. Considering the concern that your children may not be intaking enough nutrition and substance on the daily, this can also play into effect when you think about how high your stress levels get when you encourage your child to finish the meal. On top of that, we, as humans, can't force anyone to do something they truly do not want to do.
With all of that said, we know there should be some tips available to help your child finish their meals. It may not be easy, and not every tip will work (because every child is different); but if you apply these methods and tweak them per child, they may work better the more you use them. Good luck!
10 START OFF SMALL
Often, we load our child's plate with the amount of food we expect (and hope) they will eat. Age permitting, you may want to reevaluate how much is put onto their plate. If you start small, they will likely pick at it faster than if it were an average amount. You can always add food to the dish as they go along. They will likely eat is if there is not a lot on the plate from the beginning. Try this method, it may have the child eating up their entire meal in a few trips to the kitchen.
9 ASK THEM TO HELP PREPARE
Children at young ages love to be asked to help; especially in the kitchen. In the kitchen, they can get messy, creative and inspired. Regardless of what meal time it is, it's always a great idea to encourage their spirit in the kitchen which will provide them with an independent an confident nature for their future. With that said, if you ask them for help in the kitchen while you're preparing their meal, they will likely grow gratitude towards the hard work and time put into the preparation that they may enjoy their food easier than if they hadn't. Give it a go!
8 INVITE THEM TO SHOP
As said before, when children see the process of what it takes to make a good, hearty meal, they often perceive it differently. Not much changes as we grow older- even adults grow more appreciation for goods when they acknowledge where and how it's produced. So, get your kid to the grocery store. Have them involved with every process. Better yet- grow the produce in your own backyard or bring them to a farm to see where the food comes from. They will grow a sense of understanding for the work it takes to produce a good meal. This may alter their reactions when the finished product is placed in front of their face.
7 CONSIDER THEIR MEAL CHOICE
Often, we want to make the best decision possible for our children. How could someone so young make a big choice for themselves; especially the choice of how to nourish their own, tiny bodies? Well, it's important to show that you are taking in account what they would like to eat. Of course we are not giving you power to welcome take out for your toddler every-other day; however, we are encouraging you to ask what they'd like to eat. Say one night they ask for chicken fingers and fries, ensure there's a raw green on the side like crunchy broccoli and snap peas.
Life's a balance- especially when it comes to diet.
6 STICKERS ON THE FOOD GROUP
It can be very hard to encourage a child to eat all of their food, but it is important that they're getting enough nutrition in the day. Even though food itself is tangible, children like visual aspects which track their growth and success. Try printing out the food group chart. Any time the child eats a food they get a sticker to place on the section of the chart appropriate to the food group. This activity/challenge is highly effective with younger kids, though you can always allow the child (if older) to draw the chart out themselves for some extra work and reward.
5 PREPARE A MENU FOR THE DAY
Some children enjoy knowing what to expect, just as some adults do, too. It's important to understand your child's habits. It's vital to see where their behaviour stems from. Often, as individuals we treat the symptom and do not find the cause. Even for something as simple as not finishing their dinner, there's often reason for this. Are they over tired? Do they not like a certain texture? Maybe they do not like to be surprised with a certain meal and would much rather know what to expect. If so, accept this preference and prepare a meal for them to either read or colour- it can be turned into an easy and docile activity while the meal itself is being prepared.
4 CONTINUE DINNER CONVERSATIONS
Have you ever noticed that your picky eater eats better in front of the screen? Well, you're not alone. Often, children like stimuli while they consume their food. Though children can absolutely like quiet to enjoy their food, too, it's not rare for children to eat more while they're being distracted; just as adults tend to binge during late-night television shows. To avoid added screen time, try sparking up the conversation around the family's dinner table more while you eat your meal.
They may eat what ever is on their plate out of natural reflex- without an argument.
3 COLOUR COORDINATE
As said before: children are very visual. Children like to see what they're about to experience, and if the plate is looking drab, they may be more inclined to not touch it. Another beautiful part of this tip is that many bright, coloured foods are the easiest to prepare. Raw foods are always a great choice- especially for those little teething toddlers. It's ok to put less "work" into your meal if the food is simply cut up and placed on the plate if they pack in nutrients. And hey, your kid may eat it all up just because of it's vibrancy!
2 TRY DIFFERENT TEMPERATURES/TEXTURES
Children who are picky are often turned away from certain textures. Just as those teething toddlers once loved crunchy, raw broccoli often turn away once their mouth become full of teeth. It's normal and absolutely ok if your children are not fond of every texture out there. This could be a major reason why they're not into some foods that you may be. Keep in mind: this preference may change over time, so play around with your meal ideas and maybe add a contrasting texture to one they don't seem to enjoy.
1 WITHHOLD THE BRIBE
Bribing with other food items or activities may seem to feel like the last resort. Perhaps you're telling them they'll receive desert after dinner if they finish their plate. This could cause more harm then good in the long run. So, it's important to figure out what exactly it is causing them not to enjoy their food. If you continue to bribe your child, they will catch on to this habit and await it next time they choose not to co-operate. If you break the habit, they'll too pick up on this and perhaps listen the first time. Remember: this will not work over night. Practice makes perfect.