A few tips for anyone struggling with 'picky' or 'fussy' eaters...
I read somewhere that you should never label your child a 'picky' or 'fussy' eater regardless of the fact that both words perfectly sum up their behaviour towards food at times. This somewhat frustrating behaviour is simply a way for these little people to express themselves and command some authority(!) The best thing we can do to assist is place ourselves in their position and help them discover food by continued exposure and experimentation- use fresh produce, prepare food in front of them, show enthusiasm and positivity towards trying new food and share the eating experience.
Whether you chose baby-led weaning, spoon feeding, a combination of the two or whatever other method you felt suited both you and your baby their eating habits will be largely down to both mindset and personality and not a reflection on your parenting or cooking ability. Feeding a child can be amazing but equally incredibly frustrating. However, its important to play the long game. Meal triumphs are fantastic but those that end up on the floor shouldn't be failures. Push those (be it rare or regular) experiences aside and never let it dull your enthusiasm for feeding them- I know this is hard but keep going.
I couldn't understand why any child could be a fussy eater when my 10 month old daughter was eating absolutely everything in front of her and loving it. Then she started walking. I saw a steady decline in her versatility towards food and really it makes a lot of sense. If you've just discovered how to go and explore the world on your own why on earth would you want to sit down and concentrate on a plate of food.
Luckily I had decided well before this point that by making food that was delicious for both baby and adult and being relaxed and open about how and when she tried food it would negate some of the frustrations when she didn't want whatever delights I presented her with on any one occasion!
Here are a few of the positive outcomes of this outlook:
- We regularly share the same food - children learn by example and also have an inbuilt survival instinct to be wary about new foods- if they see others consuming it there is at least some sort of green light towards its satiability.
- We dine together therefore my daughter experiences valuable social eating twice a day (I refuse to eat my dinner before she's down for the night so she'll have to wait for her little sister to have a dinner pal)
- Nothing ends up wasted because me and my husband are happy to eat anything she doesn't which is a BIG deal for me. I hate waste.
- No one wants to eat the same thing everyday and I have a complete inability to do so, subsequently my daughter is exposed to a variety of tastes and textures on a daily basis.
- If your child doesn't eat what you have prepared there is more for you and regardless they have seen, felt, smelt and maybe even tasted it which as far as most significant research has found points to a positive experience even if it doesn't appear so to our adult eye.
Finally, and one of my most important pieces of advice- DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT and remember that you too were probably a 'fussy' or 'picky' eater at some point and whilst we do all continue to have likes and dislikes to varying degrees, the majority of adults eat with a knife and fork, don't have to have food cut into 'fun' shapes/arranged in a particular way in order to make them consumable and will sit at a dinner table for an entire mealtime without screaming/throwing food on the floor/wriggling until free of restraint. Remember. It's the long game that counts.
[Note: If you are as fascinated by the art of eating as I am I highly recommend the book First Bite: How We Learn To Eat by Bee Wilson. It explores the very basis of our eating habits which are quite remarkable and it will give you a greater understanding of why and how to develop your child's eating habits so that they can savour and enjoy all that is wonderful in the world of food.]