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How to Help Your Picky Eater

Is your child a picky eater? If your preschooler snubs snacks and leaves lunch behind, take a look at what you can do to improve their eating behaviors.

Talk to the Teacher

Does your child eat at preschool or daycare? Before you assume their picky eating is an overreaching problem that extends into their whole day, discuss the picky eating behaviors with their primary educator.

If your child does eat everything easily at school, ask the teacher what is different about the daycare environment. This may include:

  1. Different foods. Your child may enjoy the tastes and textures of their mid-day eating options at school more than what you offer at home. The teacher can use this information to help you plan an after-school menu.

  2. Social pressure. When it comes to healthy habits, such as eating a nutritious meal, peers can play an important positive role in your child’s life. If your child follows eating cues from other children, they may do so (from you or siblings) at home.

  3. Less pressure. Ask the teacher if school-day meals and snacks are low-pressure situations when the children aren’t forced to eat specific foods.

  4. Timing. How much does your child eat during the school day? If they load up on heavy or filling foods, they may pick at their dinner at home. Talk to the teacher about ways to balance food intake during the day.

What happens if your child won’t eat at school? If your child’s pickiness extends throughout their entire day, read on for more information on next steps to take.

Educate Your Child

While your preschooler is too young to understand the intricacies of how their body uses carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals, they can grasp the basics of healthy eating. If your child understands the importance of the foods you put on their plate or in their lunchbox, they might feel better about eating them.

If you’re not sure how to start an age- and developmentally-appropriate discussion about nutrition, ask the teacher for help. They can help you to choose wording and activities that match your child’s learning needs and level.

Along with the teacher’s tips you can also:

  1. Use children’s books. Picture books about food, nutrition, healthy bodies, or meal-time can help your child to open their mind and try a variety of foods.

  2. Role model eating behaviors. Don’t just talk about healthy eating; show your child that you enjoy nutritious foods. Put your words to use and role model eating behaviors. This takes the abstract concepts you talk about and turns them into something more concrete for your child.

  3. Try pretend play. Is your child nervous about trying new foods? Start with pretend play. Use play food and a toy kitchen to act out healthy eating before your child tries a new food in real life.

  4. Use arts and crafts. Create paper mache food, draw portraits of meals, or paint pictures of fruits and vegetables. The more your child explores and experiences different foods, the more comfortable they may feel eating them.

Even though healthy eating education can help to change your child’s picky eating behaviors, it isn’t the only option. If your child continues to resist new or healthy foods, you still have choices.

Explore Other Options

How else can you help your child to overcome picky eating? Other options to explore include:

  1. Create a routine. Create a meal-time routine and stick to it. You’ll need to share the routine with your child’s daycare teacher too.

  2. Don’t prepare a separate meal. Do you give in and cook whatever your child wants? This can encourage their pickiness.

  3. Have fun. Make meal-times fun and cut foods into cute shapes, or serve a meal in the shape of a smile.

If your child still refuses to eat or has feeding/swallowing issues, talk to a professional about the problem. And if your child is ready to start preschool, contact Advantage Learning Center to learn how we can help you with your efforts.

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