A few months ago, I wrote about 5 simple strategies to incorporate in mealtimes in order to help your picky eater. Does anyone else feel as though time is crawling by in 2020 and a few months actually feels like a lifetime ago? The world is still a crazy place, but mealtimes don't have to be! Working towards understanding the root of your child's behavior during mealtime is key to implementing appropriate strategies. Is your child just cranky? Sensory overwhelmed? Fearful of new foods? Or could they just not be hungry during this particular meal?
Remember, food refusal isn't always about the food!
Kids crave consistency and may need dozens of exposures to food before they are ready to try it. If mealtimes at home have you feeling like you are living in the Upside Down (any Stranger Things fans?), then here are 5 MORE strategies to try at home!
1. ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE. When preparing for meals, allow your child to choose their bib, utensils, or even plate. Asking your child if they want a big scoop or a small scoop of a food can help eliminate the power struggle during meals. The conversation is no longer IF they want to eat it, but how much they want to eat! For more information on this concept, check out the Division of Responsibility in feeding.
2. TAKE A BREAK IF NEEDED. Did the meal start off rocky? Is your child in a complete meltdown at the table? Don’t be afraid to offer a “break” and have them sit away from the table for several minutes. It is important not to offer extra attention during this time, and when its time to resume the meal, make a statement rather than ask a question: "It is time to sit back down and finish eating!"
3. REMEMBER ALL MEALS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! The quantity consumed during some meals may be smaller than others and often the food served gets the blame. However, some kids may consume smaller portions during dinner but eat twice as much during lunch. Look for patterns and assess the activity level.
4. MONITOR LIQUID INTAKE. Too many liquids before meals can suppress hunger cues and make mealtime a struggle. Don’t offer water or milk within an hour before the meal. If your child drinks a lot at the start of meals, either reduce the amount given or wait until midway through the meal to provide a drink.
5. STAY CONSISTENT! Consistency is key when making positive changes. Kids thrive under routines and expectations. Remember that rediscovering the joy in mealtimes is often a marathon and not a sprint. Tackle small goals and changes first to lay the foundation for change!
Mealtime should be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. For more tips, check out the previous post: 5 Strategies to Tackle Picky Eating at Home!
April Anderson, MA, CCC-SLP, CLC
Are you struggling with your picky eater and need more help? Reach out to schedule a (virtual) consultation or to ask specific questions: www.aprilandersontherapy.com