Picky or selective eaters are usually children under the age of three or four years, who have strong food preferences, accept only a limited number of foods, and are unwilling to try a new food. It is a common problem among toddlers and children, causing great concerns for parents (for example, failure to advance to table foods, lack of self-feeding, prolonged mealtimes, inappropriate mealtime behaviors, etc).
What Parents Need To Do
- Have regular family meals (at the same time) as often as possible and scheduled snacks, so that your child will not eat all day long (toddlers thrive on a consistent and predictable approach).
- Feed your child in a quiet place, without the distractions of television or toys.
- Your baby/toddler should be positioned comfortably, in a manner that is developmentally appropriate for her age (for example, a high chair).
- A friendly and supportive environment always encourages the picky eater to eat.
- Do not allow your child to eat randomly throughout the day, so that he/she is not hungry when it comes time for dinner, and do not allow free access to the refrigerator.
- Do not push your child to eat if they are not hungry, but at the same time, do not wait until mealtime to feed him/her if they are hungry. Adjust to your child's "hungry" clock, since they do not estimate mealtimes as adults do.
- Offer appropriate textures for your child's age and skill. Give foods in various shapes, colors, and textures to stimulate your child's appetite.
- Let your child be involved in the preparation of the food and setting the table. This enhances their interest in eating.
- Encourage your child to eat by offering a new food 10 to 15 times before giving up on it. A recent study found that repeated exposures to a new food made acceptance of that food more likely.
- Do not use food as a reward or punishment, since your toddler will learn to do the same back to you.
- Continue to introduce food which was previously refused at a later time.
- Do not give your child large sweet or sugary drinks just before a meal, since this will fill them up and cause appetite loss. If your child is thirsty, offer water before the next scheduled meal or before and after a snack (it can be provided freely without restriction).
- As solids become the most significant part of a child's diet, snacks help improve their nutritional intake. Snacks are good if they are eaten in moderation and not so much that they affect the three usual main meals.
- Choose nutritious snacks that are not normally eaten throughout the day.
About the Author: Dr. Maurice Levy, an eminent pediatrician, has 30 years of day-to-day medical experience in hospitals and in his active pediatric primary care and consultation clinic. Former Chief of Pediatrics and currently Head of Pediatric Research at North York General Hospital, Dr. Levy has trained and worked in various hospitals across the globe. Along with his medical degree and specialty in General Pediatrics, Dr. Levy has received various specialized diplomas and received numerous awards and publications. For more information, visit: www.babyandtoddlerhealth.com.