Sunday, January 29, 2012

My picky little eaters

I was always scouring the Internet for healthy kid friendly dinner ideas just to end up begging my children to eat. Then I realized I'm just like many other parents out there with picky eaters. It is a learning process but you can turn those picky eaters into successful "I'll try it" eaters. Just as a forewarning it does take some patience, some trial and error and lots of l♥ve. It also turns into a great family time. It's been some of our funnest times.
I allow the kiddos to help choose the meal. It is easiest to prepare a menu (and sometimes more cost effective) a week in advance. Write it out. Even if they aren't at a reading age they see the permanence of writing the menu. Sometimes I have them draw a picture of dinner next to the words so they know in advance. Knowing ahead of time helps A LOT...they always want to know what will come. By allowing my children to assist in the meal planning process then they are more willing to eat. I guide them to healthy eating by giving them choices like peas or green beans for the vegetable. This has taken some patience but they have started to suggest vegetables, yes, even broccoli. My boys now beg for broccoli for dinner. By taking ownership into the meal planning they are more likely to eat. It might take some kind reminders that they chose this meal. My youngest even has a kid's cookbook. Yes, he is three and he is contributing to the meal planning. As he told me awhile back after I asked if he was my sous chef, "No, Mom, I am the eating chef." I love that he enjoys cooking time.
I have the children help in the kitchen. I have them stir the ingredients or pour the ingredients for me. My kids love to help so I let them. It makes cooking enjoyable for everyone, the kids learn how to cook, and they see how their work evolves into a meal. The kids are curious so I feed this curiosity by allowing them to experiment with cooking. Ask them if they should add more or less of an ingredient. I let them make a portion for them with their chosen ingredient. For example, let them put their own topping on their pizza, put their own ingredients in an omelet or add their favorite ingredients to an individual meatloaf. Our kitchen has become one big science lab but everyone has fun and we enjoy a great meal. Be creative! Give the meals fun names like Volcano Meatballs for a Meatball Sub. Add a little flair to it. Sometimes a little food coloring of their favorite color on noodles can make a meal appetizing. We also like to have "restaurant" night when it is time for leftovers. I draw a few quick pics and write the items of the leftovers on a "menu" and play the waitress. Sometimes I have a funny accent or act a little silly. After serving their food I sit down with them to eat. They giggle through most of the meal and ask where the waitress went. It makes leftovers fun and they even ask when we are doing restaurant again. It's also nice on the budget. We don't have to go out to eat to have that experience. We have to remind ourselves that there will be trial and error just like everything does with children.;) It is a learning process for everyone. I also suggest new ideas multiple times. They might not like the asparagus one day but in two weeks they might change their mind. Mine seem to do this often. Sometimes it is good to give them an alternate choice. For example, I plan on carrots for snack but they want cake. So I offer them an apple if they are wanting sweets. I have to remind myself just like adults they also have cravings for sweet or salty foods. Flexibility within structure is important. It's about their best interest so teach them what is in their best interest. I learned a long time ago that forcing and fighting with them will end negatively and be an exhausting endeavor...mainly for us parents.

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