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How to deal with a fussy eater

It’s normal for children to be fussy eaters! That means, to not like the taste, shape, colour or texture of particular foods. It’s also normal for children to like something one day but dislike it the next, to refuse new foods, and to eat more or less from day to day.

Children are just like us adults, we don’t like everything we eat. You should try and offer a child food 7 times before giving up (not in the same meal but over a few week), and if that doesn’t work then try again a few months later. Of course, there are times when children have a reaction to a specific taste or the way a food looks, but even in these instances, the refusal to try that food is an expression of fear or other feelings.

What causes a child to be a fussy eater?

As toddlers, it becomes a child’s job to learn control, how to move and control their body and all of its functions. Choosing what foods to put on their plate and choosing whether or not to swallow that food is another ripe area they can control. Control and being able to control their own food environment is the primary problem. This can be very frustrating as parents. A lot of the time it’s a control struggle.

Some parents, do however, want control when it comes to their child’s eating (deciding what children eat, when, and, often, their limits) and there is enormous amount of pressure on parents to feed children adequately and nutritiously. Parents walk into the feeding dynamic already nervous.

So, what can we do?

It is extremely important for children to develop a healthy relationship with food at a young age. The best way of doing this is for them to learn by example, sit together at dinner time at the table as a family (no TV, phones, IPad’s etc) and always be positive when offering food and show children how much you like a food when you’re asking them to eat it.

A simple but powerful strategy…

I have used 2 separate methods to feeding my children (my daughter was puree feed and for my son I chose the baby lead weaning approach). Both methods work well as every child is different and they require different methods for feeding. I found giving my son the option has made him a less of a fussy eater compared to my daughter whom I didn’t give a choice to. One huge factor that I have incorporated into our lives is that I have made meal time family fun chat time.

We all sit at the table, we all have the same food and we chat about our day and the adults in the family need to mimic the behaviour they want the child/ren to mimic. The child/ren will learn table manners and see that meal time is not pressure but a pleasurable experience.

Children sense the pressure and get that meal time is something parents really care about. Let’s stop this power struggle here.

Make food a fun experience for the whole family to share and enjoy!


Janine Brindopke
Nursery Manager