Making meals and snacks with your grandchildren can be great fun, starting with shopping for food with the children to having them help in the kitchen to setting the dining or picnic table and enjoying the food. For some grandparents, meal or snack time can be a challenging time if your grandchild is a picky eater.
Several studies have shown that one out of five preschoolers is a picky eater. It is also worrisome to know that research shows that picky eaters may become overweight. Large numbers of children will pass through this phase by age 4 or 5, but it can be problematic to go through. If you are running out of ideas to introduce new foods, here are a few thoughts that have worked for many adults faced with the same problem.
● Letting your grandchild help make a smiley face out of fruit salad or a house out of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can entice your picky eater to indulge. Slicing green olives into wide eyes and forming carrot toothpicks onto smiles on top of tuna salad can work wonders for turning fun with food into curiosity about how a food tastes. Let your grandchild help to make these foods and encourage their naturally inquisitive nature.
● Keeping the TV off. It is easy to think that if a child is preoccupied with a cartoon while eating, they may unconsciously clean their plate. Sadly, research actually shows that picky grandchildren may become over stimulated by the TV, making it more difficult to turn their attention to new foods on their plate.
● Being in touch with your own food preferences. Likes and dislikes can have a big influence on the grandchildren’s attitude about food. If granddad doesn’t like broccoli or fish and grandmom avoids starchy foods in an effort to keep the pounds off, the children may think that broccoli and fish don’t taste good or that they are allowed to refuse a particular food on their plate. Seeing you try new foods at the table persuades children to do the same. It’s the old “roll model” approach and it can really work.
Links for more ideas:
MyPlate for Preschoolers, Picky Eaters
University of Michigan Health System, Picky Eaters
Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She has earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.