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  • Writer's pictureCoach Patty, HealthSmart! Kids

Using Kid-Friendly Language to Help Your Picky Eater Try New Foods

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

A mother sitting at the table with her son with food while he uses a pretend telescope to see her

Do you have a picky eater at home? Does mealtime turn into a battle of wills as you try to get your child to try new foods?

It can be frustrating and stressful for us as parents when our kids refuse to eat anything other than their favorite foods. However, there are some useful strategies that can help to alleviate this problem – one of which is using kid-friendly language. By using language that is relatable and easy for children to understand, you can encourage your picky eater to try new foods without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. In this article, we'll explore some effective ways to use kid-friendly language to make mealtime a fun and positive experience for both you and your child. So, let's dive in and discover how you can help your picky eater expand their palate and embrace new foods.

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Understanding picky eating in children

Picky eating is a common behavior in young children, but it can be frustrating for parents who want their children to eat a balanced and varied diet. Picky eaters may have strong preferences for certain foods or textures, and they may avoid trying new foods altogether. There are many reasons why a child may become a picky eater, including genetic factors, sensory issues, and anxiety around food. It's important to understand that picky eating is sometimes a temporary phase that children may grow out of over time. However, it's still important to address picky eating habits to keep things moving on the right track, and to ensure that your child is getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop.

Why using kid-friendly language is important

When it comes to introducing new foods to picky eaters, using kid-friendly language is key. Children may feel intimidated or overwhelmed by unfamiliar foods, especially if they have strong preferences or sensory issues. Read our post Does My Picky Eater Have Sensory Issues? here.

By using language that is relatable and easy to understand, parents can help their children feel more comfortable and confident when trying new foods. Kid-friendly language can also help parents avoid power struggles and negative associations with food, which can lead to even more difficulties with picky eating.

Tips for using kid-friendly language when introducing new foods to help your picky eater

  1. Use positive language: Instead of focusing on what your child can't or won't eat, focus on the positive aspects of trying new foods. Use language that emphasizes the fun and excitement of trying something new, such as "Let's see what this tastes like!" or "I wonder what our taste buds will think of this?"

  2. Be descriptive: Use descriptive language to help your child understand what they are eating. Describe the texture, flavor, and appearance of the food in a way that is relatable and easy to understand. For example, "This broccoli is crunchy like a chip!" or "These carrots are as sweet as candy!"

  3. Use colorful language: Children are often drawn to colorful and visually appealing foods. Use language that highlights the colors and shapes of the food, such as "Look at these bright red strawberries!" or "These green peas look like little balls!"

A father and a mother helping their daughter to spread jam onto bread

Making mealtime fun for picky eaters

Mealtime can be a stressful and unpleasant experience for picky eaters, but it doesn't have to be. By making mealtime fun and engaging, parents can help their children feel more positive about trying new foods. Here are some tips for making mealtime fun for picky eaters:

  1. Make it a game: Turn mealtime into a game or challenge by setting goals or rewards for trying new foods. For example, you could create a "taste test" challenge where your child has to try a small bite of several different foods.

  2. Get creative with presentation: Use creative presentation to make foods more appealing to picky eaters. Cut fruits and vegetables into fun shapes, arrange foods in a visually appealing way, or use colorful plates and utensils to make mealtime more exciting.

  3. Make it a family affair: Involve the whole family in meal planning and preparation. Let your child help choose the menu, shop for ingredients, and prepare the meal. Eating together as a family can also make mealtime more enjoyable and relaxing.

Creating a positive eating environment

In addition to using kid-friendly language and making mealtime fun, creating a positive eating environment can also help picky eaters feel more comfortable and willing to try new foods. Here are some tips for creating a positive eating environment:

  1. Avoid pressure and negativity: Avoid pressuring your child to eat or negative comments about their food choices. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and encouragement.

  2. Offer a variety of foods: Offer a variety of foods at each meal, including foods that your child may not like or have never tried before. This can help expand their palate and make mealtime more interesting.

  3. Be patient: It may take several tries for your child to accept a new food. Be patient and continue to offer new foods without pressure or negativity.

Engaging picky eaters in the meal planning and preparation process

Engaging picky eaters in the meal planning and preparation process can help them feel more invested in trying new foods. Here are some tips for involving picky eaters in the meal planning and preparation process:

  1. Let them choose the menu: Let your child help choose the menu for meals and snacks. Encourage them to choose a variety of foods, including foods they may not have tried before.

  2. Take them grocery shopping: Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help choose the ingredients for meals. This can help them feel more invested in the meal preparation process.

  3. Let them help cook: Let your child help with age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen, such as stirring, measuring ingredients, or setting the table. This can help them feel more confident and excited about mealtime.

A young daughter feeding her father a healthy sandwich at the table

Healthy snack ideas for picky eaters

Snacks can be a great opportunity to introduce new foods to picky eaters. Here are some healthy snack ideas that are kid-friendly and easy to prepare:

  1. Fruit kebabs: Cut up a variety of fruits and let your child assemble them on a skewer. This can make eating fruit more fun and exciting.

  2. Yogurt parfaits: Layer yogurt, fruit, and granola in a cup or bowl for a healthy and satisfying snack.

  3. Veggie sticks with dip: Cut up vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers and serve with a healthy dip like hummus or yogurt dip.

Overcoming challenges and setbacks

It's important to remember that introducing new foods to picky eaters can be a slow and gradual process. There may be setbacks and challenges along the way, but it's important to stay positive and patient. Here are some tips for overcoming challenges and setbacks:

  1. Don't give up: It may take several tries for your child to accept a new food (between 10 and 20 times, in fact). Don't give up after the first or second try.

  2. Keep trying: Continue to offer new foods at each meal, even if your child refuses them at first. Over time, they may become more willing to try them. Repetition and routine are important.

  3. Be flexible: Be willing to adapt your approach if it's not working. Try new strategies or foods to see what works best for your child.

Want some more tips from the Picky Eater Pro? Get my short eBook or Paperback to help your child try new foods and develop healthy eating habits.

Build a Better Eater book for parents of picky eaters

More information and support resources

Here are a few additional resources that may also be helpful:

  1. Feeding Matters - A nonprofit organization that provides information and support for parents of picky eaters.

  2. Ellyn Satter Institute - An organization that provides resources and education on feeding and eating for children and families.

  3. Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating by Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin - A book that provides practical strategies for parents of picky eaters.

Final Thoughts

Picky eating can be a challenging behavior for parents to navigate, but with support, patience and perseverance, you can help your child overcome feeding difficulties. By using kid-friendly language, making mealtime fun and engaging, and creating a positive eating environment, you can help your picky eater expand their palate and embrace new foods. With time and the right strategies and support, you will be able to help your child develop a healthy and positive relationship with food, which is the key to long-term feeding success.

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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