As a preschool teacher, you’re bound to come across picky eater toddlers. This may be due to the child having a fear of trying new foods, a desire for the picky child to have some control over what they eat, or a feeling of comfort in eating what they’re already used to. So how can you begin to approach a fussy eater and convince them to step out of their comfort zone?
Giving them space
A major reason why a child may be picky is because they desire some control over their diet. At some point, children in your class will want to decide what to eat and when. Therefore, the best approach to such scenarios is to give the child some space. Fussy eater toddlers may just want to have some control over the decision.
Don’t be quick to force or bribe the child to eat what is in front of them, as this will only reinforce the power struggle. Instead, introduce small portions of the relevant food into the child’s meal. If they still resist, introduce the food as a snack during snack time. It’s important not to overemphasize the food item. Give the child options to choose from so they can feel as if they have some control.
Introduce new foods at a slow pace
If you’re looking to introduce something new to the school diet, do it in small increments for the picky eaters. Foods for picky toddlers should be introduced in small portions. Place it next to their plate or tray, and have them use their curiosity to slowly warm up to the new food.
To increase their interest in the dish, encourage the child to explore the food and to talk about its appearance and taste. You should also mix new foods with the child’s favorite meal. This slow exposure will make it easier for the child to warm up to new food selections.
Provide reasonable options for children
At school, make sure the kids have several options to choose from during meal time. Also, ensure that each meal choice is healthy so that all kids can enjoy a healthy meal regardless of what they choose to eat.
In addition to meal options, maintain a clear routine of when meals and snacks are served. This makes it easier for you to keep an eye on what the picky eaters choose to chew on. It also increases the excitement that children have for various foods. With a clearly defined schedule, picky eater toddlers will have an increased appetite for meals and a desire to explore new foods that are available.
Presentation plays a big role
In some cases, children associate a particular food with bad taste, sickness, or a general dislike. It isn’t uncommon for picky eater kids to say the don’t like a certain food even though they’ve never tried it. No amount of reasoning of “how do you know if you haven’t tried it?” will work if they already have a negative perception.
If the child has a negative perception of a particular food, you can present the item in a different form, shape, or color. Kid friendly meals for picky eaters are often fun and playful. For example, picky eaters who don’t like eating veggies can be presented with veggie burgers, egg omelets, or other meals that essentially disguise the vegetable content. Making a shape like a happy face or animal can make it more of a game. “You just ate his nose!”
Getting a picky eater to enjoy a balanced and healthy diet involves giving them some control over their options, slowly introducing new foods, and outwitting them during food preparation.