It’s a familiar story: Your child has finally grown teeth and moved past mish-mash baby food. But your attempts to bring up broccoli or cultivate a taste for cauliflower are being thwarted by a kid who insists that chicken nuggets, French fries and mac and cheese are the three main food groups. Is there hope that something green will someday grace your picky eater’s plate?
Your sitter might be able to help. Children often behave differently with their sitter or nanny and picky eating is one behavior that may be better (or worse) when a non-parent is in charge. Make sure your sitter knows the family rules and here are a few ideas that you can both try to get a kid’s taste buds back on track.
Read to them. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of children’s books that address picky eaters. A fun one we moms at Sittercity have tested on our kids is Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks. Stop by the children’s section of your local library or bookstore with your little one and see which books he or she seems interested in reading.
Combine new foods with old favorites. Kids enjoy feeding themselves with fruit packets — try the ones that are fruit-veggie blends, and ease them into the full veggies ones to get them used to the taste before you attempt an actual vegetable. Other ideas include shredding zucchini into pasta sauce, adding peas to mac and cheese and baking savory veggie muffins.
Find a role model. Know a kid who is a good eater? Invite his or her family over to dinner so your child can be exposed to good eating habits. An older sibling who can act as a dinnertime role model is even better.
Explore the grocery store. If your child is a little older, make grocery shopping an adventure, inquiring about new foods he or she may want to try as you travel down the aisles. Kids are more likely to try out something they picked themselves.
Prepare food together. Kids love, love, LOVE to be helpers in the kitchen, so get them involved in mealtime prep. Washing off vegetables and mixing items in a bowl are a couple of safe duties to give them (as always, use your best judgment).
Cater to their quirks. Does your child recoil at the sight of a raw carrot but tolerate steamed or baked ones? Then cook them! Perhaps he or she insists that you melt a piece of cheese on top of their broccoli — and that’s totally OK.
Say no to pre-dinner snacks. This is hard, especially for working parents rushing to make dinner — and it’s where a daytime sitter or nanny can help. Set your child’s snack time in the middle of the afternoon and stick to the schedule. By dinnertime, he or she will have worked up an appetite and be more inclined to try something new.
Don’t make double meals. Again, this is another area where sitters can help their families. If a child rejects their meal, both sitters and parents need to stand firm. It’s hard, but don’t crumple and make a PB&J to accommodate a picky eater! If you’re worried about your child getting the proper amount of nutrition, keep a food journal along with your sitter for a week, and review it with your pediatrician if you feel there’s cause for concern.
A child’s food preferences may not improve in a day, a week, or even a few months. But with constant good reinforcement, you’ll eventually be able to change their eating habits for the better.