Written by Ryan Warren | DadsApp
So hands up… Who has had the battle with a toddler about what they’re going to eat? The same toddler that ate everything that was put in front of him or her at nursery that day (or so they say). The same toddler who cleared their plate at grannies house over the weekend. The same toddler who ate carrots last week but declares ‘I don’t like carrots’ today.
Come on… Hands Up! 🙌💃
I’ve been there and I’ll be there again in the near future when I try to introduce a new fruit or veg to my son’s diet. It can be a repetitive recurring battle for parents. It’s normal. However, there is something that can work.
Hold on, is this guy a miracle worker? A Magician?
No, not at all. I’m just a simple man who happened to know a magician or 2, I know miracle workers. They’re all around us and they’re called nursery staff. If you’ve ever wondered why your kids eat better at lunch than at home there’s a simple reason – consistency with a hint of peer pressure.
I noticed my sons empty lunchbox one day and was in true disbelief when they said he’d eat the apple and grapes I’d put in. I nearly accused them of lying and considered looking for a new nursery until I asked them how they got him to eat his fruit. After a few minutes of discussing this I realised they don’t do anything exceptionally different than we do. However, the nursery do the same thing everyday. The structure was identical everyday and not only is that the case for my son but for all the kids at the nursery. He was witnessing the same practice each day for every child. This gives the kids consistency, gives them a routine and pattern of acceptable/expected behaviour to follow.
Now you may be saying ‘well I do the same thing everyday but my kid still doesn’t eat their fruit’. That’s OK, that’s likely true but is your approach different from the nursery staff’s? If so this can create a conflict for the children and that’s where the challenging can arise. This isn’t about they’re doing it right and you’re doing wrong, instead it’s more about communicating with your nursery and seeing if there is a possibility to crossover approaches. I’m not saying this will work for everybody but for most kids structure and consistency gives them a comfort zone and they feel less need to rebel.
So maybe a wee chat with the staff at pickup could help improve your chances of getting the kids to eat the food you put on the table.
Other useful tips
Play with your food
Nurseries often have play sessions with food, taking time to teach kids about fruit and veg. They get them familiar with food and allow them to explore it. Not something that’s particularly common at home. Try a wee intro to fruit section where you don’t ask the kids to taste anything but maybe get them to describe how something feels, what it looks like, how it smells, give it a new funny name (I find this cheaper to do in the supermarket so I can put it back afterwards). Try cutting food into shapes with cookie cutters and Play-dough stencils. Making food fun reduces a child’s resistance towards it.
Remove the pressure
This is easier said than done with the pressure that parents feel to get kids to eat their veg. But if you keep instructing them to eat this or that when they don’t want to the rebellion can grow stronger. Pop it on the plate but don’t even address it. If you know you’re going to argue about it don’t even mention the fruit or veg. Just let it sit there. Eaten or not. Punishing for not eating can create negative after effects and create more of a barrier for the children. Plus kids are stubborn as heck.
If all else fails REWARD CHART!
A classic, you need to eat healthy so if you do I’ll give you sweets. It may sound stupid but bribery works pretty well with kids so if you can get them to eat 10 carrots in exchange for 1 sweet, JACKPOT! You get them in the habit of eating the fruit & veg and phase out the rewards, or make goal bigger i.e. 20 pieces bites to 1 reward.
None of this is guaranteed but maybe it can help someone. So keep at it, they’ll give in one day when you last expect it and be eating you out of house and home before you know it. You got this!
Thanks for reading.