Worrying about a child who is a picky eater is common among parents of two-year-olds. At this age, your child is quick to reject the food you give her at mealtimes, unless it is exactly what she is used to.
It’s infuriating when you try to widen her taste buds, only to see her respond by pushing away that plate of food that you just put in front of her. Or maybe she just sits and stares, with a sad expression on her face as if you are trying to poison her. What started as an innocuous attempt to get her to eat a broader range of foods soon become a source of frustration at best and battle of wills at worst.
Here are 10 ways to get your picky eater to be more adventurous with food:
Have realistic expectations
Your child likes what she’s used to, and chances are she will automatically resist any change to her diet. So, accept that she is a cautious eater by nature, that she doesn’t want new types of food. Don’t expect too much from her.
Related: 4 reasons why kids are picky eaters
Make new food attractive
She won’t eat anything new if it is too greasy, too spicy, too hot or if she finds the texture of the food uncomfortable to swallow. A child vomits more easily than an adult, and so it doesn’t take much to start her gagging when eating.
Serve new food as a snack
She’s more likely to try something new if it is presented informally as finger food, away from the table. The novelty of this may make the eating experience more attractive to her, and she may be more willing to give it a try.
Blend new food in with her favourites
You can try to introduce a new food very subtly, by mixing it in with food that you know she definitely likes. That way she will become familiar with the taste of the new ingredient, without realising what you have done.
Serve new foods in small amounts
Only give her a little bit to start with, so that it appears a very small amount in comparison to her favourites that are also on the plate.
Give her a choice
You might get a better response if you let her have a few options. Of course, she might not like either of them, but giving her some control over what she eats can make her feel more positive.
Involve her in the preparation
Your two-year-old may be prepared to widen her taste buds if she helps in some way. For instance, she can bring it over to you from the table, or she can help you serve it on to her plate.
They rarely work, for two reasons. First, you cannot force your child to widen her taste buds, no matter how hard you try – she has to cooperate. Second, your threats increases tension, which, in turn, reduces her appetite.
Keep mealtimes fun
Take a relaxed and calm approach when introducing new food. Don’t stare at your tot or urge her. If you are stressed, she’ll sense this and soon, she’ll feel the same. Try to keep the atmosphere light-hearted at mealtimes.
Sit with your child
She is far more likely to sample unfamiliar food if you sit beside her while she eats. She enjoys your company, and chatting with you distracts her attention away from the new food on her plate.