Give THANKS for Picky Eaters: Tips to help your holiday meal go smoothly
Try:holiday foods BEFORE the big day!
Introduce your child to the new foods they will have every 2-3 days in the weeks leading up to your holiday feast. Share stories and traditions your family may have around that food. Let your child have control by serving themselves with a small spoonful to sample instead of receiving a heaping portion of a new or non-preferred food. Feel free to let your child use dips and condiments when giving new foods a try.
Help: prepare a dish for the meal.
Children are much more interested and willing to try foods that they have helped to make. While cooking together, your child is exposed to the way the food feels, smells, and maybe even tastes. This prepares your child to try it at your holiday celebration.
Allow: your child to bring their preferred food to be part of the holiday meal.
With one accepted food on the table, their stress level will go down, and they may be more willing to try new foods, and less likely to refuse, fight, or cry at the table.
Never: force them to eat a new or non-preferred food, clean their plate, or stay at the table.
You choose what food is put on the table, your child chooses what and how much they eat.
Kindness: Be kind to yourself and your child.
Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t have unrealistic expectations of your child. It’s okay if they only eat their preferred food.
Don’t make your child stay at the dinner table for hours.
Do cheer them on for the little achievements of scooping a new food onto their plate, crunching a crispy onion from a green bean casserole between their fingers, smelling the cranberry sauce, or plucking a marshmallow off of the yams and popping it into their mouth!
Most of all, enjoy the spirit of the holiday together and be sure to celebrate in ways that don’t include food away from the kitchen and table (decorating, crafts, singing together, etc…).
Support: your child’s sensory needs.
Holidays are exciting but can be overwhelming for children: new foods and smells, unfamiliar people and places, robust laughter and noisy conversation, dresses and button up shirts, and changes in their routine. Prepare for the day by keeping to your child’s routine as much as possible. Choose comfy clothing or bring a change of clothes. Check in with them periodically during the celebration to see if they need to take a quiet walk or move into another room with you to read a story. Encourage them to play outside to get break from the smells of the kitchen and crowded spaces and get in some much needed movement before sitting down for your holiday feast.
Most of all, give THANKS for your picky eater and enjoy your holiday together.
Who knows? Maybe your child will surprise you with a sensational achievement or two!
Written by: Amanda Michel, MLD, OTR/L
Senior Occupational Therapist and Feeding Specialist at Sensational Achievements
Want to learn more ways to help your picky eater?
Join Amanda at the Stamford JCC on December 13th, 7 -8:30PM to learn the difference between normal and picky eaters. She will share simple strategies that will give you the tools to help your child explore and try new foods while avoiding those mealtime power struggles. Contact Liza Fahey to register for the December talk by calling 203-487-0946 or emailing email@example.com.