The most rapid growth phase of your child's growing years is 2 to 10 years of age. During this period, children undergo a significant increase in physical development and mental development. For some, this is also the period where they are beginning to develop food preferences. They can also be unpredictable about what they may want for a particular meal on a specific day. Their favorite food one day will end up being thrown on to the floor the next. The food that they had spit out, day after day, will unexpectedly turn into the one they can't get enough of. . This is a phase that is characterized by what is known as "picky eating" / "fussy eating" period. Your children's picky eating may lead to nutrition gaps affecting their growth, immunity and mental development.
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Picky eating is often the norm for toddlers. For weeks, they may eat 1 or 2 preferred foods – and nothing else. They may eat a big breakfast or lunch and then show no interest in eating much of anything else the rest of the day. Don't become exasperated with this kind of behavior. Just make healthy food choices available to your youngster, and acknowledge that his appetite or food preferences today may be quite different than yesterday's or tomorrow's. That's just the way toddlers are.
With time, your child's appetite and eating behaviours will reach some balance. He'll find something he likes in a variety of healthy foods without much or any prompting from you. In the meantime, try dealing with picky eaters by giving them finger foods or table foods that they can feed to themselves with. Just make sure these are healthy food choices such as slices of banana or small pieces of toast. Also avoid finger foods that could cause choking. Children don't fully develop the grinding motion involved in chewing until they're about 4 years old, so stick with foods that are small and easy to chew and avoid those that might be swallowed whole and get stuck in your toddler's windpipe.
Even when your toddler is feeding himself, it's a good idea to sit with him while he eats. He's also old enough to join the rest of the family in eating at the dinner table. Use these family meals to model the healthy eating that you want your child to adopt for the rest of his life.
Although picky eating behaviour may be short-lived in some children, for others it remains an ongoing problem. Prolonged picky eating may have serious consequences.
Dealing with a child who is a Picky Eater
If you have a child who is a picky eater, you can put to work some important tactics as you continue to feed and work with your finicky child. In fact, dealing with picky eaters can be frustrating, and parents often make the situation worse by letting their emotions get in the mix.
The key tactic to managing a picky eater is consistency. Don't give up or give in. A consistent mealtime offers your child three healthy meals a day and healthy snacks in between. Offer a variety of foods, and don't allow your little beggars to panhandle for snacks between meals, either. Also, keep the milk and juice in check, and instead serve water .
Your child won't starve to death. Just because she's picky, don't feel like you have to throw organization and nutrition to the wind just to get her to eat. Be consistent and firm, and don't force the issue. She'll eat when she's hungry.
Defuse the stress
A picky eater can be stressful for you and the rest of the family. That stress and aggravation can end up making mealtimes a war zone, and your stress can actually make the problem much worse. In fact, your reactions can make your picky eater even pickier!
As you work with your kid, it's important to remember that you're not alone, and pickiness is actually common in children. With this in mind, don't take a food protest as a personal attack against your cooking. Instead of letting mealtimes stress you out, just do your best and move on – tomorrow is another day. Parents often make mealtimes stressful for their children by putting too much food on their plates. Keep portion sizes small to diffuse your child's stress – he can always have more.
Mix it up
As you're working with your picky eater, you may fall into the routine of letting your child eat whatever he'll eat for the sake of simplicity and your sanity. In the end, though, this form of nourishment isn't good. This behavior produces an older child that automatically rejects any new foods and continues to be picky. Avoid planning meals based on what your picky child eats. This tactic decreases variety and the rest of the family ends up resenting having to eat only what the picky one eats. Keep varying the meals and encouraging good eating behavior. Encourage your kids to try new things. Sure, sometimes they'll complain, and sometimes they'll gag, but they'll be comfortable with trying new foods. And you can nurture adventurous kids too! If your child doesn't like it, no big deal. You don't want to end up with children who eat only five things.
Serve meals away from the table
If eating is a problem, then your child may associate the dinning table with negativity. This is the time to shake things up and get away from the dining table:
- Plan a backyard picnic.
- Have a "tea party" (with real mealtime food) in your child's bedroom.
- Play restaurant – move the meal to another area of the house and pretend like you're eating out. Have your toddler help out as a waiter!
Use the dining table for activities other than cooking. Let your child work with moulding clay or other craft projects. By putting this tactic to work in your home, having craft time at the same table at which you eat may lessen the opposition.
One of the worst mistakes to make is allowing the dining table to become a place of discipline, criticism, or arguments. As frustrating as your child's defiance to food can be, avoid using discipline, and never force-feed – this is dangerous due to the choking hazard and results in more eating problems later. Instead of focusing on discipline, try these tips at the dinner table:
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