Simple and Quick: Picky-Eater Tip

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Do you ever feel frustrated when you spend time and money to buy and cook a delicious healthy lunch for your children and everyone declares they ‘hate it’ without even trying one bite?

This often happens to me if we try a new recipe and my number one picky eater in the group announces her opinion first.  It’s very common for this scenario to also happen when the children have been away on holidays for a bit (when eating habits can be all over the map) and then they return to daycare and the normal routine.

I have a quick and easy idea that you might want to try at your home daycare when your children are going through a picky eating phase.  Switch the focus from the food to something else.  You first need to ensure they are hungry and ready to eat.  I like to make sure we have had an active outdoor morning filled with lots of running and jumping.   Fresh air and activity works wonders to build up a good appetite.

Coming in from outside and having a warm healthy meal can be very comforting. I serve lunch and then put on a story book on CD.  One of our favourites is the Little Book of Train Stories with CD .  It’s from the Usborne Farmyard Tales series. Each story is short but the whole CD lasts the meal so I don’t have to keep jumping up and down to put a new CD in.


I always serve something I know they already like with the new recipe, so it’s not so scary!

If the children declare they don’t want to eat it, I simply say, “O.K.” and we continue listening to the story.  All the children want to stay at the table to hear the story so they end up sitting in front of their warm, yummy smelling lunch, with their empty bellies………….and then they just start eating!  I don’t have to DO anything.  It just happens.

Sometimes the children will ask me to make them something else. I reply that I already made them something to eat.  I also let them know in a gentle voice that I’m eating my lunch right now and listening to the story.  If they persist and say, “But I don’t like what you made me.”  I tell them they don’t have to eat it if they don’t want to, it is their choice.  I always make sure they know it is their choice.  It gives the power back to them and prevents a battle of wills.  They are in control. They get to decide how much they put into their bodies.

It is also a gentle way of letting them know that I’m a hungry person as well and not just the cook. Asking for personalized food choices for every child at every snack or meal time is an unreasonable request.  Young children are still in a phase of development where they view themselves as the centre of the universe.  This is normal.  Stretching their awareness in a gentle, loving way to see that other people around them have needs as well, is one way we help children become empathetic individuals.

I have been eating lunch with young children for over fifteen years now and I can tell you, this strategy works.

Put a hungry child in front of a warm healthy bowl of food (I add something I know they like as a side) and then put on a children’s audio book.  Sit down with your kids and eat the food you served them.  Be a role model.  Laugh along with the story.  Share the experience.  Soon you will see children picking up their spoons and digging in.

I’ve never had a child in my home daycare leave the table hungry.  They all make the choice themselves to eat without any further prompting from me.  In fact, I find the less I bring the focus back onto the food the better.  I put the power of choice into their laps and then I redirect the focus of the group onto the story line. I ask their opinions about the story and get them to remind me about the character names.

We love the Apple Tree Farmyard Tales because each story starts out the same way with the same first three sentences introducing the main characters.  I like to be silly with my children and repeat the sentences along with the CD but insert the names of my kids when it says the character names.  Of course every time my group groans and points out my mistake, but they do it with delighted smiles.  🙂


Happy listening and eating!