Picky eaters have built a wall of resistance to avoid eating nutritious foods. They love fast foods and junk foods, while refusing to eat whole foods, especially green veggies. “Vegetable” might as well be a four-letter word, because a truly picky eater won’t touch one with at ten-foot pole, much less a fork.
In my book, “Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater,” I explain that my 2½ year old grandson, Joshy, wasn’t eating properly. In fact, he regularly ate only a few foods. He never ate any vegetables, either. In fact, his picky eating had begun to affect his health.
One evening, Joshy and I were alone for supper and I thought I had everything under control…although, Joshy wasn’t happy. I implored cheerfully, “Take just one bite for Nonna and you can have your sippy-cup.” His sippy-cup of milk was his very favorite food.
PICTURED: Joshy is following his mom’s direction. He’s licking an apple…after refusing to eat the skin. It took numerous exposures to the texture and feel of the apple skin, before he began to enjoy eating the entire apple—including the skin!
Naturally, Joshy refused to take even the smallest of bites. I kept my cool attempting the train and airplane ploy. “Choo-choo, here comes the train. Open the tunnel, wide.” “Zoom, zoom, the airplane needs a hangar to land in. Open up!”
After my failed attempt at the train and plane, he picked up his toddler spoon and scooped a solitary cheese-coated noodle onto it. He then made the most spectacular sound effects for a train and airplane I’ve ever heard a small child make! Although, neither the train nor plane ever came near his lips. Obviously, I wasn’t the first to attempt the train and plane maneuvers.
I prayed for wisdom on how I might convince Joshua to eat anything, something nourishing. The answer came in the quiet of the night, “You’ll never get Joshy to eat anything he refuses to touch.”
Why yes, Joshy needed to touch his food first, before an expectation of eating it. The first objective isn’t a plate licked clean, but for Joshy to become familiar and comfortable with food using all his senses.
We think that taste alone should be enough to convince a child to eat a new food, but taste is the last sense that should be engaged in the learning process. (CLICK HERE to find out more about taste.) Teach your child about the food’s attributes, before asking that he take a bite. In fact, multi-sensory learning is vital for transforming a picky eater into a healthy eater. Additionally, when multi-sensory learning is incorporated from the beginning of a baby’s introduction to solid food, you can avoid ever having a picky eater.
I began what is now called the Baby Bites Steps with Joshy. He was assured that he didn’t have to eat a refused food, at least not at first. During the course of several days, we instructed him to touch his food, then to pick it up, and hold it. The next sense incorporated was smell. Did you know that 70 percent of taste actually comes from the sense of smell? After a few days, we asked that he lick the previously refused food. And finally, he was instructed to take a tiny bite.
During the process, we continually talked about the food in positive words. Auditory learning is vital, so negative remarks about food were forbidden at the table. No one was allowed to say “That’s yucky” or “I don’t like that.”
Directed-play came about mid-week when Joshy brought a small plastic toy to the table. It was then we discovered, he’d happily pick up a food he hesitated to even touch-to pretend feed the toy. I ran out the next morning to purchase two plastic toys: a green T-rex, we called Try Rannosaurus. He’s named Try, because he’ll eagerly try any healthy food and because he’s green, all green veggies are his favorite. Try has a best buddy, Betty Baby Bites. Betty is an Italian mouse. And as you would guess, her favorite foods are cheese, grains, seeds, and nuts. The two characters become valuable tools in transforming a picky preschooler into a healthy eater.
Directed-play takes the pressure off your young child, redirecting attention away from your child’s reluctance to eat a refused food. It helps you to include all your child’s senses for optimal learning—besides it’s more fun for you. too! Directed-play transforms mealtime conflict into happy multi-sensory learning experiences.
For a synopsis of Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater, Click Here.