🦃 Happy Thanksgiving for next week! We know it may be tricky for families to get together as usual, but we hope you manage to work something out - whether that be in-person or virtual!
Ahead of Thursday's dinner, make sure to read Lisa's handy tips below on how to encourage your picky eaters. Also, Maggie shares some facinating insight into why using negative language such as "don't" and "no" is not actually effective. Star the email if you don't have time to read straight away! 🌟
— Diana & Richard
🥦 It’s Time to Wave Goodbye to Picky Eaters
Some kids are born picky eaters, and some children are unintentionally trained to eat only a narrow variety of foods. Don’t spend time fighting battles or wondering what you did wrong. Say bye-bye to picky eating by taking a few simple steps with your child, and begin introducing them to the big, beautiful world of food.
🏷 Labels Matter
When I was little, my mom enthusiastically offered me “broccoli trees”, “rocket carrots” and “asparagus castles.” It didn’t take too long before I saw through her elevated cheerfulness, but as it turns out, she had the right idea.
Studies show that giving food a fun name really can motivate a child to try it, and it may even make them like it more. In our home, we call salad “strong food” because it gives us “super vitamins,” making bones and muscles more powerful. Children will absorb your own likes and dislikes, so try not to label foods as “good” or “bad.” Brussels sprouts can truly be delicious, and just because goat cheese makes me gag doesn’t mean my little guy won’t love it.
🎨 Present Well
A rainbow salad formed into a happy face can be irresistible, and even though we don’t always have time for meal masterpieces, we can still make food look as tantalizing as possible. Chopping vegetables into small pieces and arranging them into small, colorful piles on a plate can be appealing, and it also keeps everything separate. (We know how horrifying it can be when the potatoes touch the peas, or the gravy seeps into the bread…)
💪 Keep Trying
Place a microscopic amount of new foods on a plate for your reluctant eater. This might mean a few peas, a one-inch chunk of fish and a skinny strip of squash. Next, add a pile of your child’s favorite fruit. When they give new foods a try, reward their efforts with a generous dollop of praise.
🍳 Shop and Cook Together
Strolling through the fruit and vegetable aisle is a colorful visual treat. If you can, bring your child along to see the incredible variety of food that exists in the stores, or shop online together. Point out unusual fruits or vegetables and let him choose something that catches his eye. When you get home (depending on age and ability) your child may be able to mix a marinade, wash vegetables or chop soup ingredients. (Use common sense when it comes to kitchen safety.) When a child helps prepare the food, she may be more ready to sample it. Shopping and working in the kitchen with your child is an ideal, natural way to share time together, too.
👉 Be the Parent
As a parent, your job is to provide healthy food for your child, but you cannot force them to eat it. However, as a smart parent, you can encourage healthy eating by:
- Restricting sugary snacks if your child has a habit of not eating their healthy meals
- Praising your child when he or she tries something new
- Making mealtimes pleasant and pressure-free
- Modeling the eating behaviors you want your child to learn
Picky eaters can change their ways (and their parents can too!) Changes may not happen overnight, but with a little patience, consistent praise and daily practice, your little one might soon be eating her “broccoli trees” with a smile on her face.
Things we found on the web this week:
...and a few more from social media:
👍 Why You Should Switch the Don'ts for Dos
“Don’t touch that!”
And of course, the age-old classic:
“Don’t put that in your mouth!”
Toddlers love discovering the world around them, sometimes a little too enthusiastically. Toddler parents, however, mostly care about safety, good behavior, and their toddler’s overall well being. It’s little wonder that sometime between the time your little one becomes mobile and the time they begin school, “don’t” and “no” become the most often used words in a parent’s vocabulary.
But there’s an argument to be made that “don’t” and “no” language isn’t really all that effective. For one thing, toddlers are still building an internal vocabulary and won’t always get helpful cues from commands like “Don’t do that.” For another, it’s exhausting being told what not to do all the time!
When your child is in actual danger, of course, this all goes out the window. But for everyday “don’ts” like jumping on the furniture and putting their pants on backwards, a different tack may give better results.
At the core of the issue, your toddler is almost certainly not making mistakes to aggravate you. They genuinely don’t know how to do things right! They’ve only been around so long, you know. Rather than shower them with “no”s, try showing them what they should do, instead.
If they’re about to lose their grip on a plate full of food, for example, “Don’t drop that!” is really more of a prayer than an instruction. Instead, you might say something like, “Hold your plate carefully” or “Look at your plate, it’s about to fall!” You could also put hands on the plate yourself and demonstrate a better way to hold it.
If your toddler is a ball of energy running around the house, you’re only going to frustrate yourself trying to stop them with language alone. You’re going to need to find an outlet for that energy, and possibly reassess your daily schedule. “You’re going to get hurt. Let’s go outside” is a better choice if you can put a hold on what you’re doing, while a childrens’ exercise video (Cosmic Kids has great yoga videos, and some are on YouTube for free) works well when you can’t.
Sometimes, it’s not really necessary to say anything at all. When natural consequences are low risk, your toddler may benefit from experiencing them. Those lessons will stick a lot better! As parents, we tend to swoop in and put a stop to things rather than letting them play out. It may be a matter of convenience (“We don’t have time for this!”) or pure force of habit. Learning to step back when it makes sense to do so allows your toddler to practice making good decisions—and learning from bad ones.
Setting limits is a very important part of parenting toddlers, but discipline that is based on guidance rather than reproach is more likely to help your toddler make better choices in the future. The most important factor isn’t so much the language you use, but how consistent you are with the limits you set. When you stop leaning on words like “no” and “don’t,” and focus on teaching appropriate behaviors, you may find that your parenting—along with your connection to your toddler—becomes even stronger.
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