Ensuring that children eat properly at every meal is important as it affects their growth and wellbeing. However, it can be tricky when they are fussy eaters.
Debbie Evans, Founder and Clinical Director of Sydney’s most sought after children’s therapy service, Therapies for Kids, shares her top five tips and tricks so that your kids will be eating right in no time.
1. Eating is a social activity
“Research demonstrates that children are more likely to try new foods when eating with an adult. By sharing at least one meal with kids per day, this gives them the opportunity to talk about food choices, daily activities and healthy lifestyle. Therefore, eating becomes a social activity. During these shared meal times, avoid distractions including television, electronic devices and toys so that the child is able to focus on the skills and movements required for eating.”
2. Same food for everyone
“Make sure that everyone has the same variety of food as well as a serving of ‘safe food’. ‘Safe food’ is a food choice that a child will happily consume and should also be served to everyone at the table. For example, if a child will only eat plain pasta, then everyone should also have a serve of plain pasta. At the same time if a family member likes broccoli, then everyone should also have broccoli on their plate. This provides children an opportunity to learn about different types of food and discuss this with who they are eating with.”
3. Talk about the food on their plate
“Try reframing negative food statements like “I don’t like it” and “I hate that food” to facilitate positive food discussion. It is helpful to ask kids questions about food to help them learn about what they are consuming, e.g. “Why is food good to eat?” This provides an opportunity to educate your child about nutritious food. For example, “This food has vitamins that stops you getting sick and helps make your bones strong.” Through discussion, this enables kids to develop confidence to explore food.”
4. Rainbow challenge
“Challenge your child to eat a different coloured food each day. Utilise a rainbow placement or chart on the fridge to track the variety of foods they consume. This challenge will facilitate discussion about how the food looks, its colour and how it feels. Encourage children to make their own food choices by selecting the colour of food and assisting with the preparation of their food choices.
5. Explore and play with food
“Help your child develop the confidence to explore food. There are a number of ways to engage kids in exploring food such as getting them to assist in preparing dinner, washing vegetables, tossing salads and cutting simple vegetables with safe knives. This is a great opportunity to discuss with children where food comes from and the importance of a variety of foods.”
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Therapies for Kids is Sydney’s most sought after children’s therapy service, located in the inner west suburbs of Annandale and specialises in speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Founded by Debbie Evans, the centre is changing the way children with all disabilities learn and grow with its integrated intensive programs and innovative equipment. They use fun and effective treatments that involve the latest specialised gross motor and sensory equipment, such as ‘GoBabyGo Car’, ‘GoBabyGo Harness System’, ‘Spider Cage’ and ‘Fizzy Gym’, to help their young clients develop with ease. Therapies for Kids is for kids of all abilities.