3 Helpful Tips for Navigating Life with Picky Kids

I Never Thought I’d Have a Picky Eater

“I’ll never have picky eaters… why don’t their parents just make them eat what’s on their plate?” This is a line that went through my head multiple times when I was young, child free, and oh-so naïve.

Now that I have experienced picky eating in my own home, I understand that there can be a lot more to it than just “making them eat it.” Texture issues, strong wills, parenting burnout, and countless other situations can contribute to picky eaters.

Whether or not you have a picky child, or just want to better support the parents in your life who do (believe me, they could use it), here are a few tips for navigating life when your kids don’t, won’t, or can’t always eat what you wish they would.

Stay Curious: Don’t Assume They’re Just Being Stubborn

Not all picky eaters are just being willful. Some kids with sensory challenges or irregularities in mouth structure can genuinely be bothered by certain textures or tastes. If chewing certain types of food is difficult or certain textures seem to always trigger meltdowns and mealtime anxieties, it might be more than simple stubbornness at play.

Staying curious about the kind of foods your child is saying “No” to can help you discuss these issues with a healthcare provider in order to get a better understanding of the situation.

Give Safe Options: Introduce New Foods Alongside Comfortable Choices

Even as adults, we sometimes feel squeamish about trying new foods that look, smell, or taste strange to us. For some kids, this anxiety can feel overwhelming, especially if they are nervous that they won’t eat at all if they can’t manage to eat what’s being offered.

Offering a new or difficult food alongside a more comfortable, established choice can help ease this anxiety for some children. This allows them to become curious about the new food, instead of terrified of it.

Focus on Engagement: Any Positive Interaction is a Win

With any picky eater, repetition and exposure are one of the best ways to add new options to the mix. For small kids, just touching, smelling, or licking a new food can still count as a win! The more familiar the food becomes, the more likely it is that they will eventually learn to try it without all the fuss.

Over time, these positive experiences with food will hopefully contribute to more and more willingness to try new things. If your picky toddler will only sniff at broccoli with distain… let them sniff away! Letting them interact with foods on their own terms as much as possible will encourage positive feelings about eating and food.

When your child (or children) have particular palates, everyday life can feel overwhelming at times. Getting food on the table for your family isn’t always easy even when everyone is an enthusiastic eater!

Remember to stay curious, do your best, and focus on the very basics. If you are concerned about your child’s health due to their eating habits, make sure to discuss it with their healthcare provider.

Bethany Robin

Bethany has been blogging about the struggles, pitfalls, and just plain insanity of parenting as a millennial since her oldest was born in 2015. She's also worked extensively as a doula and has four children of her own, including toddler twins.

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