Toddlers are notorious for saying no. They don’t want to stop playing when you call them, they don’t want the TV turned off, they don’t want to get dressed, go to bed, share their toys…the list goes on and on.
Most parents of toddlers figure out pretty early on that pushing them will only make them resist more, which makes for some creative parenting!
Stubbornness can really kick in when it comes to trying new foods as well. Toddlers tend to be pretty skeptical of unfamiliar foods, but they actually have good reason. If you think about it from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes perfect sense. In the old days, many foods were actually poisonous and could make people seriously ill or even kill them. In order to survive, humans would have had a natural aversion to trying strange foods, so it’s only natural that your child does too.
So how do you make your picky eater expand his repertoire of grilled cheese and cereal? Try, try again.
Studies have shown that it can take up to 20 exposures to a new food before a child might start to like it it, so don’t get discouraged if he still won’t touch that chicken you’ve put on his plate for the 10th time. The smell, texture and taste are new to him and until they become more familiar, he just might not know how he feels about it.
Here are 3 tips for introducing new or previously disliked food:
1. Let your child see you enjoying it. When you eat together as a family, talk about the food and make comments about how much you like it or what you like about it. That shows your toddler that it’s safe and that other people enjoy it, so it can’t be that bad.
2. Don’t make him something else instead. This is a big one. It’s a good idea to make sure there’s at least one thing on the table that your child will eat, even if it’s a plate of raw carrots, but don’t make him a special meal. This will set up a dynamic that’s very hard to break. If he knows you’ll eventually cave and make that grilled cheese, he is way less likely to try the pork tenderloin.
3. No pressure. For some kids, the more you try to convince them that asparagus is delicious, the more they will dig their heels in, and then it becomes a battle of wills. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be the winner. Just serve the food and let it go. If your child takes two bites and then says she’s done, don’t push her to eat two more bites.
It’s hard not to resort to the old “You’re not leaving this table until you eat that liver and onions!” Parents worry about their kids getting all the nutrients and calories they need. But have some faith. All you need to do is create a calm, supportive environment and avoid power struggles around food, and before you know it your child will be trying foods she never tried before. And even liking some of them!
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