Most children are, by nature, curious and a lot of us would assume that this curiosity extends as far as to what they eat... Unfortunately, this is not quite the way it works...
More and more parents are becoming concerned by the fact that their child is a fussy eater.
It's not always the case that kids will eat just what they like though - some of them might alternate between eating everything in sight and then suddenly refusing to touch anything but one particular food for weeks on end.
It's also pretty common for children to become obsessed with specific types of food such as ice cream, chocolate, or pizza.
As good as these options might taste, it should be remembered that most children need a balanced diet containing a variety of different foods...
If your kid is very fussy, you might find that they're not getting all the essential nutrients they need.
In this article, we will look into just what reasons there might be why a child is a fussy eater and also give information on how best to deal with this problem.
What is a fussy eater?
A fussy eater, by definition, is a child who has an extremely selective appetite and only eats foods that they consider to be 'acceptable' - in other words, it's more than just your average child who only eats one or two foods.
Children of this nature will also probably refuse to eat anything that their parents try and persuade them to eat.
It may be that the child has no problems with eating if left unsupervised, but under parent supervision, they behave like a fussy eater...
If you think this could be the case with your child, it is important first to understand why this might happen.
Why do children become fussy eaters?
It is quite common for every child to go through phases where they refuse certain foods. This phase usually lasts until around age 3 years old - after which time most children tend to broaden their diet and begin to eat a slightly wider range of food.
There can be a variety of reasons why a child becomes a fuss eater... It could simply be that they are going through a phase and are testing their parents' limits. However, there might also be something else going on behind the scenes which is making them reluctant to eat...
You may think that your child is still in this phase, but this isn't usually the case when dealing with a fussy eater; for them, it's not just one or two foods they refuse - it's more like most foods!
If you're wondering why children behave like this, many experts believe that there are three main reasons:
- They have cognitive issues surrounding eating and thus find some foods unacceptable.
- Constantly being offered new things leads them to find a large number of foods unacceptable.
- It's simply a habit they have developed.
- Having had a bad experience with food (perhaps they were force-fed as a baby or they got sick after eating something)
- Fear of new foods or of not being able to chew properly.
- Feeling pressure from parents or peers to eat a certain way.
- Attention-seeking behaviour.
Whatever the reason for it, it is important to remember that fussy eater phases are normal in children under 3 years of age.
However, by 5 years old, most children have developed a more sophisticated palate and their parents should continue encouraging them to try new foods - enabling them to broaden their culinary horizons... However, sometimes this isn't quite as easy as one would hope!
How can you deal with a fussy eater?
There are several ways by which you can help your child become less fussy when it comes to food. As mentioned previously, there are three main reasons why your child might be refusing certain foods:
Cognitive issues surrounding eating, constantly being offered new things and some simply develop the habit of not trying new foods.
If your child has cognitive issues surrounding eating, this means they might be anxious about trying new food (because of the taste or texture) and often the only way to tackle this is for them to be exposed/expose themselves to these situations gradually.
The best thing you can do in this case is to simply keep trying - just like any phobia; the more times you go through with it, the more likely it will be that your child will overcome their fear of different textures or flavors.
The second reason mentioned above, constantly being offered new things makes for a very difficult situation... This is because children subconsciously learn to associate newness with being bad.
In order to try and combat this, we advise that you slowly introduce new foods instead of bombarding them with lots of different options at once.
This will make it more likely that they will be willing to at least try the food.
Last but not least, some children simply develop a habit of not trying new foods.
This can be tackled in a few ways: If your child is absolutely adamant about not wanting to try anything new, you could start by making a small change - such as letting them choose a new food themselves every day.
This hands them back a sense of control and makes them feel like they're still in charge; it also means they might be more likely to taste the food.
Another way of dealing with this is to make trying new foods into a game. For example, you could set a rule that for every five bites of a new food they try, they get a reward (not necessarily a material reward, could just be letting them choose which book to read at bedtime/ what film to watch later; whichever reward you know your child would appreciate and enjoy).
This makes it more fun and encourages them to at least taste everything on their plate.
Whichever method you choose to use, it's important to remain positive and upbeat when trying to encourage your child to eat - after all, no one likes being forced into anything!
We hope that this blog post has given you some great insights into how to deal with a fussy eater.
Remember, no one likes being forced into anything - so be positive and encouraging when trying to get your child to try new foods!
There are many ways in which parents can help their children become less picky about food; the most important thing is not giving up on them or pressuring them too much.
Are you dealing with a fussy eater? Anything you'd like to add?
Feel free to let us know in the comments.