Tips For Picky Eaters

tips picky eaters - fruit

Many children go through a phase where they are a picky eater. It can be a hard experience for a parent because everyone gets frustrated. Children aren’t happy at the table and parents don’t want to constantly feed their kids junk food just to get them to eat. This blog post has some tips to help you make it through the picky eating phase.

Control

You wouldn’t like it if someone put you in a chair and told you exactly what you were going to do—and kids don’t like it either. This section explores easy ways to give your kid more control over their dinner.

Give kids control over the menu
That doesn’t mean you should eat pizza every night. Offer your kid a choice between two meals (or two side dishes, salad dressings, etc) that you don’t mind them eating. They will be more likely to eat if they chose to eat it (even if it is a healthy option you approve of).

Give kids control over their place setting
To help children feel more in control, let them win battles you’re willing to lose. Buy some special plates and let them decide which ones to use. Let them choose their utensils. Who cares if your child has two forks—unless of course you’re eating soup!

Respect “I’m not hungry”
Some days I’m famished and other days I can barely eat a sandwich. Kids are exactly the same way. If they’ve been running around at the playground all morning, they’ll probably eat more than that rainy day the family watched movies. When your child says they aren’t hungry, respect their decision. You can always feed them more later that night. Just make sure they aren’t skipping dinner to have a midnight snack of ice cream!

Education

I’m a big believer that kids should understand where food comes from and how it is made. If people aren’t connected to their food, they’re less likely to eat well.

Take children shopping with you
You don’t have to take them shopping every time you go — and you certainly don’t need to include them when you’re going for a three-hour, massive shop. But it’s important your kids occasionally swing through the produce section with you. How do you pick out a good apple? What do you look for when buying cauliflower? Show your children the care you give the groceries and teach them how to pick out bananas that are the perfect ripeness for your family.

Cook with your kid
I believe food should be a celebration. It’s amazing that food keeps us alive. Teach your kid what you know about spices; explain which ones go well together. Show them how you measure flour when you bake or how to crack an egg. These are all important life skills. Plus, what kid wouldn’t want to eat pancakes they stirred by themselves—even if it has some whole wheat in it!

Fun

Make mealtime fun. Sitting down with the family should be a happy experience. Tell jokes. Talk about your day. Ask your child questions. (It’s a great time to check up on how school is going.). Avoid phone calls, text messages and television if you can.

Temperature
It would be boring to eat the same food at the same temperature everyday. But the great thing about foods is that they come in every temperature. If your child won’t eat their veggies, try frozen peas instead of steamed ones. (Grapes are also great frozen if they’re missing fruits). Experiment with different temperatures and see if that lures your child back to the dinner table.

Dips and Sauces
Also experiment with dips and sauces on veggies. Buy two different types of hummus and try them both with carrots. Which one did your child like better and why? There’s nothing wrong with putting sauces, dips or salad dressings on vegetables, as long as it’s in moderation. (My son will only eat carrots with hummus!)

Sneak in Baby Foods
Jars of baby food and bland tasting veggies like zucchini are a great way to sneak veggies into other meals. Add a jar of carrot or cauliflower baby food to your macaroni & cheese. Finely shred zucchini into cakes and muffins. If you use a bit of creativity, you can get a jar of baby food or a shredded veggie into almost any meal—except, perhaps steak!

Things every parent can do

There are also some things you can do to make your life easier even if your child doesn’t cooperate.

Set a good example
Kids will always refuse broccoli if Dad does. Be a good example for your kids and eat the same foods you’re trying to get them to eat.

Don’t make 100 meals each night
You are a parent, not a chef. Don’t cook ten different meals each night so everyone in the family is happy… all you’re doing is wearing yourself out.

New foods take time
It can take kids many nights before they’ll actually like a new food. If they don’t like carrots one way, try them another. If you keep exposing them to spinach in different forms, eventually one might become their favorite!

Be consistent
Make a consistent dinner schedule at a similar time and create patterns that the child can expect. Don’t force them to eat cabbage one night and then tell them cookies are ok the next. Don’t allow TV one night at the table and then expect them to talk about their day the next night. Have a predictable routine so kids know what behavior is consistently expected of them when they sit down.

Food isn’t a reward
Don’t use food as a reward for kids. You’re setting up bad habits for your kids if they associate junk food with being good. Similarly, you shouldn’t comfort your kids (when they scrape their leg) with a chocolate bar. That trains them to turn to food when they are feeling miserable as an adult. Remember food isn’t love. You don’t love your children any more by serving them cookies.

Pick your battles
No rule should be 100%. Pick your battles. If nobody has any energy, there’s nothing wrong with eating pizza in front of the TV. Just make sure that’s not their normal meal…

Good luck and happy eating!

Teaching Toddlers Manners (Before They Can Talk)

toddler manners

Like most kids, when our son learned he could point and make noise to ask for something he wanted, he also realized he could ask really loudly and aggressively to get our attention. That made my wife and I ask ourselves how can we teach manners before our son can talk?

The Secret of “Tah”

The solution we came up with was using “tah” instead of the word “please”. “Tah” was easy for him to say and we made him say it in a nice voice before we gave the object he wanted.

At first we just told him to say “tah”… then once he got the hang of it, we told him to “ask politely” whenever he forgot.

The change has been remarkable. Instead of constant screaming and pointing, we now have a son who points and asks nicely for what he wants. He learned it pretty quickly since there was the strong, immediately motivation of getting the toy he couldn’t reach.

Sign Language

Many parents use sign language as a tool to talk with their toddlers before they have learned to talk. However, our son was never interested in it so it didn’t work for us. From the moment he could make a sound, he wanted to make different sounds for different needs.

If you have a child that is interested in hand motions, sign language is a great way to say “please”. “Please” is signed by making small circles around your heart with one hand.

Our friends who have had success with sign language recommend using it yourself. It’s much easier for a toddler to understand “please” when he seems mom and dad using it with each other. Who knew toddlers learned through repetition?

Please Doesn’t Mean Spoiled

Just because a child says “please”, doesn’t mean they always get what they want. That’s called being spoiled. We’d never let our son play with a boiling pot of water simply because he said “tah”. However, both “tah” and sign language were a great introduction to manners.

Any other techniques we missed? Leave a comment and let us know how you taught manners to your young kids.

Trapped In Your Thoughts

banana easy solution

Recently our son caught a stomach bug. We were grateful it was pretty mild, but he was still uncomfortable and not very interested in food. No matter how much we offered him, he refused to eat very much.

The next day, he woke up screaming. My wife and I were sure he was even more sore from his cold and we weren’t quite sure how to comfort him. We brought his favorite toys and even some things he’s not normally allowed to play with. Nothing was working.

On a whim, I brought him some food. He pretty much leaped off my wife’s lap to grab it. He had already finished what I brought him by the time I could return with more. My wife and I were so “trapped” in the idea of a stomach bug, that it took us a while to see the obvious answer: he hadn’t eaten much for two days and was famished.

This got me thinking about how often we are all trapped in our thoughts. We get so focused that we only see one possible solution — and we get frustrated when that solution doesn’t work. So next time you’re banging your head against the wall, remember that your solution could be as simple as a bite of a banana. Take a step back. Brainstorm other alternatives. Try things you wouldn’t have normally tried and hopefully you’ll have your solution in no time.

Parents Aren’t Perfect

tissue box

Last month my son got sick and I thought I was helping him, but when I called the nurse hotline, she recommended the opposite of what I was doing. Aside from the fact that I’d be the worst doctor, that experience made me realize that parents aren’t perfect: we’re just trying our best.

I think imperfection can be hard to cope with because society tells us we have to be perfect. Buy this product to get the perfect body. Drink this drink to attract the perfect mate. With all those messages of perfection, it’s hard to believe humans are imperfect. We’re all just trying our best.

My wife and I try to embrace our imperfection. It’s our quirks that keep us interesting and human. It’s the imperfections in characters and the flaws in their plans that keep us turning pages in our favorite book.

Sharing a Child’s Accomplishments

parenting child walking

Like most parents, my weeks are usually filled with another first. You have first laughs, first words, first crawl, first steps, etc, etc, etc. But the most heart-warming part of all these firsts is that my son wants to share them with ME.

Whenever he’s working on a new skill, he always takes time to show both my wife and I what he just mastered. Of all of the billions of people in the world, my son chooses to tell me about them — that’s such an amazing honor that I try to show him the same respect back. I make sure to give him some undivided attention every day. There’s no phone call, iphone message or TV show that’s more important than the excitement he feels after discovering something new.

So take a step back from your day and try to give your kids fifteen more minutes of completely undivided attention than you did yesterday. Just watch them play. Marvel at how much they’ve grown and learned… then you’ll wonder why you ever did anything else with that time.

Should Parents Have a Date Night?

parents date night

After months and months of passing up baby-sitting offers, my wife and I recently decided to have our first date night. Taking time for a date was our best idea this year! After twenty minutes of discussing our routines and what sort of dirty diapers we had changed , we actually started conversing like adults. We laughed. We talked about how we were doing… and we both finally relaxed.

So should parents have a date night? Assuming you have a reliable baby-sitter, the answer is YES!

Don’t Feel Guilty

One of the biggest struggles my wife and I had finally setting aside some time for a date was that we felt guilty leaving our kid behind. We felt like we were abandoning him — but this was all in our heads.

When you become a parent, you are a PARENT. There aren’t many breaks… newborns need a lot of love attention, so it’s natural to feel guilty, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to feel guilty. Leaving your kids with a good baby-sitter, food, water, shelter, warmth, etc is far from abandoning them. If you don’t build up a bank of energy, how are you going to keep giving-giving-giving?

Parenting is tough

Even if you have the best kids in the world like me, they’re still kids… and that means parenting is tough. You owe it to yourself to have some downtime so you don’t go crazy. Sometimes its helpful to get away so you can admit how tough parenting or talk with your partner about how they’re actually doing.

Add some play into your routine

When I became a parent, I was amazed by how much my life was dominated by routines. Kid like schedules. They need regular feeding, attention, changing, etc. Sometimes you forget what it’s like to do something spontaneous — like order a dessert. Plus, playing is a great way to relieve stress. (Toddlers play all the time and look at how few heart attacks they have! :)

It’s hard, but worth it

Fitting an occasional date into your life won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort. Dates are a great way to reconnect with your spouse, unwind and be an adult (instead of a Mom) for a night. So enjoy — you deserve it!

What a Dad Learned by being a Mother

dad as mom
This Mother’s Day my wife was unfortunately sick for the day and that meant I had to do everything (but breast feed!). I took our son for walks, played with as many toys as we could find, made all of our meals — and of course clean up afterwards… or clean as well as dads can.

I knew it wasn’t easy to be a mother, but I had no idea how exhausting it actually was. By the end of the day my back was sore, I was running out of things to entertain my son and absolutely ready for bed.

It gave me great respect for single parents who never get the breaks I’m used to… but more importantly it made me think about empathy. I learned so much about my wife’s day by literally walking in her shoes that I wondered how much I could learn about others through empathy. I thought about bad days with bosses, times friends let me down, off color remarks others made. Thinking about all of those situations, I realized there were probably good reasons why others acted the way the did… even if it’s not apparent to me.

I’ve decided not to take things as personally because everyone’s simply trying their hardest — and trying your hardest is far from being perfect.

The Magic of a Box

magic cardboard box

To my son, everything is a toy. Throwing placemats on the floor, grabbing sweaters and hitting boxes are just as fun as shaking rattles and rolling balls. He’s shown me every day objects in a new light and taught me to see the magic in everything.

Yesterday we were playing with a box for about an hour. He drummed on it, sat in it, opened and closed the flaps and we put stuff in the box.

The next time you open a box, throw out junk mail or take the last granola bar — remember that the cardboard doesn’t have to be garbage. It can be whatever your imagination is capable of. In fact the whole world is as magical as your imagination.