My sweet Little Bean (which is one of her many nicknames, and much less visually confusing than “A”.) has been challenging at the dinner table, but we seem to have gotten into a good routine lately. After lots of stress about food, we’ve found a few things that work for us.
1) Give a very small portion on her plate, and have extra set aside to top it up. Too much food on a plate can be overwhelming visually, and seems daunting. She seems to enjoy it better when she can clear her plate and then ask for more.
2) Everyone at the table eats the same thing, and we sit down and eat together as a family. Seeing hubby and I eating something will encourage her to give it a try. Sometimes she prefers to sit on our laps and eat right off our plates, which is also okay, though not always convenient.
3) If she gets dramatic about not eating something, stay calm and don’t give attention to it. Instead, turn conversation to anything else – toys, her day, whatever – and keep eating. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when she’s shouting “I don’t want it!” and turning her head and flailing her arms in front of her face.
4) Include her in the dinner conversation. It’s a family meal, and when she gets to participate I find everything goes more smoothly. Even when it’s just asking her what sounds an animal makes.
5) Try presenting things differently. Little Bean HATES cooked vegetables but loves them raw. With pasta, she prefers the noodles plain, and having the sauce on the side like a dip. Even cutting things into different shapes, or steaming instead of pan-frying, or just organizing on the plate can make a difference.
6) Remember that she knows when she feels full, and respect that. This is the hardest for us, since my daughter has always been at the bottom of the growth chart for weight and eating has been a HUGE stressor for hubby and I. But, also, announcing that she’s full means that she’s done, and doesn’t get to snack later outside of her normal routine. She still has to sit at the table and hang out with us if we’re not done eating. We leave the table at the same time. Sometimes she’ll pick at what’s on her plate some more, which is fine. We’ll leave it out for her until we’re all done and put all the dishes away at the same time.
7) NO tech at the table. No phones, no TV, nothing. It’s our time to connect with each other, to talk and make eye contact. This is NOT negotiable in our house.
It has taken some trial and error to get to this point. Dinner time is still not flawless, but it has improved a lot.
What tips or tricks would you suggest for a picky eater?