Hey Mommies! I don’t know about you but one day my son loves a food and the next day he refuses to eat it. He seems to have gotten even pickier and more opinionated about the foods he’ll eat since turning 2. I think he often refuses to eat something just because he can, and just wants to express his little opinion.
If this sounds like what you’re experiencing, here are 8 tips and tricks I’ve used to get my son and other kiddos I’ve worked with to eat, or at least try food.
1. Make food look like other foods they like– The other night I cut up an apple into little strips to look like french fries. I told my son they were apple fries and he ate them up. He actually requested ketchup and dipped them in it! Looked pretty gross to me but whatever works! You could try this with carrots or green beans. We’ve also fried cauliflower to look like chicken bites and he’s eaten that!
2. Use dips– For some reason, most kids love to dip food in ketchup or ranch, etc. I actually remember dipping my green beans in ketchup as a kid because they tasted more like ketchup than green beans. My son does this now too. If you can find a dip that your kiddo likes, they may be more inclined to eat if they can dip.
3. Relate one food to another food– My son really likes cheese balls and brought them up the other day when we were having grapes. He usually loves grapes, but this day he was being picky about eating them. When he said something about cheese balls, I told him that the grapes were grape balls. He looked at me goofy, but when I said “Yeah! They’re grape balls!” and popped one in my mouth, he laughed and ate them right up!
4. Steal a piece of food from their plate- The other day my son was refusing to eat his strawberries so I stole one and said “ok I’ll eat them”. He immediately looked at me and said “No momma! Don’t eat my strawberries” and proceeded to eat the rest.
5. Have kids help prepare food– My son loves to stand on his stool at the counter and “help” with dinner. I will let him stir, pour, and even help cut up fruits and veggies by holding his hand with mine. I can get him to eat tomato slices, cucumbers, olives, and even raw onion straws when he’s helping me! Kids are more likely to try food when they’ve helped and been engaged with the process.
6. Relate meal times to books or TV shows– My son loves Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. On one episode, one of the characters didn’t want to try a food and they made up a little song about trying new foods. Sometimes when he doesn’t want to try something, I remind him of how Catarina Kitty Cat didn’t want to try something but when she did, she liked it! I’ve also related eating to Green Eggs and Ham and how when he tries it he likes it.
7. Let them make choices (when appropriate)– If you’re trying to decide between carrots and green beans with dinner, ask your kiddo which one they’d like. They are more likely to eat something they picked but if they still refuse, you can remind them that they picked it and need to try it. This often works with my son. You can also let them choose what they’d like to drink, or what dip they’d like. Choices help kids feel like they have some control over mealtime and we aren’t just forcing them to eat something.
8. Use a Motivator- Using a motivator such as “Take 3 more bites and then you can have a cookie” or “Finish your applesauce and then we can go play together” are great ways to get your kiddo to eat. We use this with my son all the time and it’s very successful. If he doesn’t want to eat and has no reason to eat, then he’s just not going to eat! However, if we give him motivation to eat, he’s much more willing.
Hope these are helpful, and let me know if there’s any other strategies you’ve used to help get kids to eat that have been successful!
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com