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Posted on April 25, 2012
OFFER A VARIETY
Kids are naturally curious, so try offering them a variety of different foods to explore. Put a different bite-sized snack in each compartment of an ice-cube tray or a muffin tin. Include some of their preferred foods as well as soon non-preferred foods. They will likely gravitate to their preferred foods and that's ok - just having the other foods there will be progress. If they won't eat certain foods, see if they'll touch them instead. Talk about the food and have the child describe it.
OFFER IT AGAIN
Sometimes it can take up to 8-10 or more presentations before a child will feel comfortable enough with a new food to try it. Oftentimes when a child refuses to eat something, parents put that food into the "no" category right away. But sometimes the child just needs time "warming up" to the new food. Give them lots of opportunities to do so.
Come up with fun names for the foods, such as cauliflower blasts, tomato balloons, pretzel light sabers, etc. Have the child come up with names with you. This can help make new foods more appealing / less threatening.
Almost everyone loves a good dip. There's a reason why dips are a staple at parties - they're fun (and tasty) at any age. Let kids take their foods "for a swim" in salsa, guacamole, hummus, cream cheese, ketchup, cheese whiz, yogurt, jelly, nutella, peanut butter, etc. The child will likely be more open to trying a new food if it's covered in one of their favorite dipping sauces.
MAKE VERY SMALL ADJUSTMENTS
Try making VERY small adjustments to the foods they already like. If they like x brand of cereal, try the same kind of cereal in a different brand. If they like a certain cracker, try adding a VERY tiny bit of butter or another condiment on top. And so forth. The goal is to make very small, noninvasive changes and gradually progress from there.
Fun shapes are often an easy way to please a picky crowd. Cut sandwiches, cantaloupe, waffles, cheese slices, etc. (anything you can really) into different shapes with cookie cutters.
PRESENT IT DIFFERENTLY
Use kid-friendly plates for serving, such as one with their favorite Disney character on it. Picky eaters often don't like their foods to touch, so you can also try a plate/tray that has sections. Arrange food on the plate in new and eye-catching ways. Pinterest is an excellent source for inspiration.
LET THEM PLAY WITHT THEIR FOOD
"Don't play with your food!" is a phrase we've all heard before, but encouraging kids to play with their food can actually lead to them trying new foods. Click here to learn more.
GET THEM INVOLVED
Let your kids help you prepare the foods with you. If they had a hand in making it, they may be more inclined to try it.
Let them use a twizzler as a spoon. Let them sip soup out of a cup. Serve yogurt on a plate. Sometimes something unexpected/crazy/fun like this can help upend kids' traditional expectations about food and help make them more open to trying new things.
Keep in mind that at the end of the day, we all have our food habits and preferences. For example, I hate avocados, mushrooms, and coffee. My daughter hates pineapple and coconut. My son hates bananas. I might go through a phase where I'm really into one food or recipe and make it a couple times a week, then I don't want to see it again for months. Most of us have some picky eating habits in us, which is normal as long as we have an overall healthy diet.
For most kids, picky eating is a passing phase. But if you are at all concerned, don't hesitate to consult with your child's pediatrician and/or a feeding therapist. Sometimes children refuse food for very real sensory and/or oral motor issues. An evaluation to rule out and/or address those issues can never hurt.