Fussy eaters! If you’ve never had to deal with one, consider yourself lucky. From the baby who doesn’t feed well, to the toddler who refuses seemingly everything, to the school aged child who is a “fussy” eater – they’re all a normal, yet difficult part of any parent’s life.
Practical tips abound and it’s worth trying several as a solution may be difficult. Whilst most problems are common from the age of 12 months to 2 ½ years of age, some children will continue to be fussy eaters until they become adults!
Sometimes it’s a battle of wills, at other times it’s about independence, or maybe it’s about the texture or the colour of the food or possibly it’s about appetite. I was told by a dietician that salt and sugar from an early age may corrupt taste buds causing fussiness, however, most importantly, a healthy child will never willingly starve themselves.
The experts say to ignore it as much as you can, and try not to force your child. Some practical tips for toddlers and preschoolers we have learnt over the years are:
- Serve the food in a small bowl as a smaller serving can be less daunting
- Try to make to food look more interesting – e.g. sandwiches cut into special shapes, fruit on skewers
- Perhaps sit down and eat your meal at the same time – less distractions and the “sharing” of a meal can work for some children. In childcare all the children sit and eat together and the social factors tend to help
- At home, try giving the child the same food as the rest of the family, but with smaller portions
- Encourage your child to self-feed from an early age
- Limit the options on a child’s plate so it’s less confusing
- Don’t worry about the mess they make
- After about 20-30 minutes take the food away – you can offer them something else in a couple of hours or just wait until the next meal
- Large drinks or milk shouldn’t be offered in the hour before a meal as these will fill up your child
- Prepare your child for a meal by warning them e.g. “Lunch will be on the table in 5 minutes. Let’s finish our game and get ready.”
- Snacks between meals should not be too large – a small piece of fruit is sufficient
- Avoid giving other foods or favourite foods as a reward.
If a child is losing weight or the fussy behaviour continues, consult your GP but this is extremely rare.
Rest assured though, that fussy eating is a normal step in the development of a toddler.
Here at Columba Cottage we offer shared fruit platters for morning tea. We then serve home made lunches to the children and can also serve pre-ordered nutritious canteen food. For more information on mealtimes at Columba Cottage, click here.
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About the author: All round go-getter, Susanna Christie, is the Executive Director of Columba Cottage Early Learning Centre, where she leads a passionate team of 50 staff who love what they do, caring for children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 6 years. With a background in teaching from pre-school through to university, Susanna is passionate about all aspects of child development and wellbeing. Her qualifications include a Masters in Education, Bachelor of Teaching and a Graduate Diploma in Educational Studies. Susanna’s aim is to ensure that Columba Cottage remains the best Early Learning Centre on the Mid North Coast.