For parents of picky eaters, getting a child to try new foods can be extremely frustrating. Mealtimes often end in a power struggle between parent and child, both vying to come out on top.
For many children, the refusal to try new foods is at root, an issue of control. Young children have control over two things: what comes in, and what goes out. Often times if a child feels like he has no control in other areas of his life, he will often exert his control by refusing to eat anything but what he desires.
The good news is that parents who are trying to get their child to try new foods can be successful. If you’re struggling to get your child to try new foods, try these 5 tactics:
1. Make mealtime less stressful
Avoid a power struggle at all costs. Instead of trying to pressure your child into trying new foods, present the foods nonchalantly and casually offer them to your child. Passively encourage him to try something new by eating it yourself and by praising others who are eating it.
2. Offer something new at each meal
Make introducing new foods part of your routine. Instead of being a short order cook, offer something you know your child will eat, along with something new at each meal. For some children, they will need to be introduced to a new food at least 7 times before they’ll even try it!
3. Give your child choices
When attempting to get your child to try new foods, giving two choices you can live with can be helpful. Instead of “Eat your broccoli” try “Would you like to eat your broccoli or peas first?” By offering choices to your child you can often eliminate the power struggle and your child’s need to exert his control.
4. Have your child help prepare the food
Have your child be your mini-chef. Getting your child involved with preparing something new may be all it takes to get him to try it. There’s something in the power of making it yourself that makes new foods more appealing.
5. Let him taste yours
If your child shows some interest in what you’re eating, offer him a bite. Put a small piece on your child’s fork and let him try it. Avoid using the same fork to prevent the spread of cavity causing bacteria.
6. Give them two choices to choose from
One of the most helpful things you can do to avoid the frustration that comes along with trying to get a child to try new foods is to avoid asking him what we wants to eat, since when you do, chances are you won’t like the answer. Instead, focus on giving him two choices that you are prepared to serve and praise him for making a good choice.
When the focus is moved from trying to get something new in your child’s mouth to avoiding a power struggle, you’ll find that slowly but surely your child will begin trying new foods without a hassle.