It is important to teach children to eat a large variety of foods starting as early as daycare. In many cases, foods that children refuse to eat turn out to be tasty and fun, but unfamiliarity is displayed as a blanket dislike before the first taste has been taken. Here are some tips used by preschool teachers when they need to handle picky eaters.
- Role Modeling
Observing teachers and other Montessori daycare students enjoying a new food encourage picky eaters to try it for themselves. Don’t be surprised to see young children poking, prodding, and sniffing some new food before they are willing to taste it directly. Even when they have seen other children eating that food with enthusiasm, it helps picky eaters to move in slowly, and only take a taste after the other senses have given their approval or piqued the child’s curiosity.
- After This, Then That
Serving food the child is resistant to alongside something they enjoy can help get them to give the new thing a try. Suggesting that eating the unfamiliar item first will leave the appealing item to wash down the other. Be careful with this approach, however, as you don’t want to infer rewards after punishments, just indicate that even if the new food doesn’t taste great, the favorite food will help overcome the taste it leaves behind.
- Tasty Combinations
In a similar fashion, combining new things with familiar favorites can make them more appealing. A child may resist eating celery until they have tried it with peanut butter, or avoid salad until cheese is added. Combining two things to create a better dish is at the heart of most recipes, so investigating promising combinations at an early age also encourages children to explore other kitchen combinations.
- No Special Orders
Lastly, always cook one meal for the whole family and stand behind everyone eating that meal. Once you begin cooking special dishes for each person, you can spend most of your time preparing special items, leading to a great deal of waste and a chaotic dinner table. To be sure, it is a great idea for every member of the family to be served their favorite foods from time to time, but everyone should eat whatever has been prepared whether today is their favorite dish or not.
Picky eating behaviors need to be overcome early in life or they risk becoming ingrained habits as the children get older. Through proven strategies, parents and teachers can assist children in trying vegetables, eating funny-looking fruits, and giving all foods the respect of trying them before turning away. Eating healthy develops healthy children, and that means eating a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients a growing body needs.