5 Tips for Parenting Picky Eaters

We have a wonderful post from a fellow parent and blogger, Sarah Wilson, author of The Wandering Rumpus, on how to encourage your kids to be more adventurous with their taste buds.

Take it away Sarah…

“Is it a do-againer?” This is a common phrase around our dinner table, particularly when we are trying something new. Often it is a mixed bag of grunts and responses, but sometimes it is a resounding “Yes!”

I am Sarah, mom of three girls and founder of The Wandering Rumpus, where I write about expanding our kids’ worldview through travel, books, local experiences…and food! When it comes to the table, my crew runs the gamut on eating tendencies. One basically lives on eggs, bread, and sweets, while another will try anything anything from stinky cheese to seaweed. The third is right in between; she’ll try new things, but sticks to a simple, kid-friendly palate.

As a result, we’ve learned to be creative with our approach. Here are my best five tried and true tips for encouraging kids to be more adventurous eaters:

  1. A New Food Challenge

A couple of years ago, my oldest daughter was required to complete a 30-day challenge for school. For 30 days she had to practice something and document it every day. After much deliberation on what she should do, we finally agreed on the perfect challenge – every day she would TRY a new food that she had never tried. Yes, some were sweet, but she also tried new fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood. I took her to World Market so that she could pick out some food items from around the world to try too – she picked mochi from Japan, noodles from Korea, banana chips from Hawaii, and octopus from Spain! She committed also to trying new things on menus and interesting things that her dad and I cooked up and then writing a short review in a journal. In the process, we learned that she likes cooked oysters, lobster bisque, and matzo ball soup!

These days, we sometimes do a condensed version of this challenge, maybe for a long weekend or within a restaurant meal. Making it game encouraged our daughters to try things, opening them up to new tastes and cultures.

2. Kid-Friendly Cookbook

For my daughter’s birthday, she was gifted an American Girl Baking Cookbook. The girls have learned how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients thanks to this fun and colorful book. Afterward, we all rate each recipe in the book after they make something (5 stars all around for chocolate crinkle cookies!). A familiarity with following recipes and ingredients encourages them to be a little more creative and adventurous in their food choices.

3. “No, Thank You” Bites

I think the biggest challenge with picky eaters is getting them simply to try foods! My oldest — and most particular eater, ahem — allows me to encourage her to at least “try” new things. Sometimes we make it a game or challenge to try new cultures or recipes and other times it’s just a matter of practicing good manners. This doesn’t mean that all of our family meals are full of manners and delightful challenges, not by a long shot, but we’re constantly working at it! Most of the time, we simply encourage our girls to at least take one bite of the food on their dinner plate. If they don’t like it, they simply say ‘no thank you” and they don’t have to finish it. Every once in a while, they find something unexpected they enjoy!

4. Gardening & Visiting Farms

We love to visit many of the local farmer’s markets and farms in and around Nashville. My girls always make a beeline to the local honey vendor for some honey sticks, and we love all of the seasonal produce and talking to the farmers about their farms. We like to visit kid-friendly picking farms like Green Door Gourmet to pick our own strawberries or blueberries.

We also grow a few things in our own backyard garden such as arugula, tomatoes, fennel, figs, and lots of herbs. The girls love picking and trying things from our garden which encourages lots of tasting and cooking.

My mom grows a garden at our family farm. We visit frequently and harvest blueberries and potatoes, and–this year–a hundred acres of zucchini! The girls help pick and dig, plant and weed, and discover new recipes. This year’s zucchini favorites included zucchini bread and pasta carbonara with fresh zucchini!

5. Cooking & Menu Planning Together

It’s so important to get our kids in the kitchen with us! Whether it’s topping pizzas, baking cookies, or chopping vegetables for soup, when they help, they are more likely to try new things! We also encourage the girls to plan menus with us for lunches and dinners so that they are more likely to eat some of the prepared meals.

We’d love to hear how you encourage your kids to try new foods too!

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