A picky eating preschooler is something that I have dealt with before. It is hard when you have a picky eater. How do you get a four or five year old to eat when they don’t want to eat? What makes it even harder is when they eat for other people or eat at school/daycare, but they won’t eat at home.
You might be tired of making separate kid-friendly meals and maybe you are ready to cook for your whole family again, without catering to them. Today’s tips will help, as they are from parents that have done this and figured out some tips that work.
How to help a picky eating preschooler:
- Before I begin, I want to tell you that I had a son with a crazy allergy called FPIES. (allergic to nearly ALL foods). He would hardly eat anything from birth-two. It was not a defiance issue, it was a health issue. We didn’t know that he was allergic, we just knew that he hated to eat. It was not until years later that we found out. Please have your child checked for food allergies or sensory issues before moving onto the following suggestions. If it is a health issue, the following suggestions may make the problem worse. If all is clear, you will probably find great luck with the following suggestions.
- Try to have a variety of foods, including something that your child will eat. We make our meal, but I always have some sort of fruit, because I know that our picky eater will eat fruit, if nothing else.
- “I also introduce a new food one bite at a time over and over and over again. Some children need to see the food over 100 times before they will even touch it. I can happily say that over this past year we have added new foods that he will now eat. He is perfectly healthy and happy too.” ~Susan Jensen
- “You cannot make a child eat. Your job is to provide the food, his job is to eat it. At my house, you eat what is served, or go hungry. I don’t make them eat any of it, but will not make anything special for them. I try to provide at least one item on the menu I know they will eat, but some days that doesn’t happen. There is no battle, no recrimation, no begging to eat. Children will not starve themselves. They will hold out for a long time, but they won’t starve. You just have to be stronger than he is.” ~Julie Fields Monteleone
- The preschool age is the age of learning independence. Be patient with your child and try not to lose your patience over it. Continue to introduce the foods that you want them to eat, until they try it (which may be months later!)
- ” My youngest son did the same thing…..go for days without eating and then eat like crazy for 2 days. My pediatrician said a 2 yr old will not starve themselves. He’s 34 now and eats quite normally. lol” ~Sharon Timpanaro
- See if your child’s class (preschool or daycare) will try having the whole class have a new food together, or do this at home. Everyone picks a new food and try it together.
- If your chile suddenly stops eating, be sure that nothing else is wrong. Often, a child with emotional troubles will lose their appetite.
- “Feed him healthy stuff and that’s it, no other choice. Those other things are a treat, not a every day food. You are the adult. If he is hungry, he will eat what you serve him. Your child is doing exactly what you’re letting him do. ” ~Nea Fletcher
- “I was always told I was to eat what I got or there was nothing else. One time in 1999 I refused to eat my dinner and mum and dad had had enough and said that that’s what would be there from now on at each meal till I ate it. I thought they were bluffing but at breakfast they served me the same thing then I was like “well I’m going to daycare so what ever.”Well, wasn’t I the fool when mum and dad sent a tupperware container of my dinner from the previous night to daycare the day after for my lunch.” ~ Eden Tauhore
- Don’t give anything else after the meal, until the next meal, if they have not eaten (no snacks or desserts).
- Try a “No Thank you bite”, a bite to try the food. ~Allie Vann
- Saying “I don’t like it” or “that looks gross” is unacceptable. At our house, it is an insult to the person that prepared the meal and we do not tolerate it. If you dislike it (after trying at least two bites), you can simply not eat it. ~Julia T.
- Do a Fix It Yourself night. They eat whatever they want, that night. (no sugar). They can pick a veggie, a fruit, a glass of milk or water and then their main dish. We do this once a week. ~Jody Towne Montalvo
- Make homemade kid foods, if you want them to eat these. Chicken nuggets, french fries, mac & cheese… all made by you and your family, at home.
- “It is hard to see your child hungry, and everyone pays the price with their attitude and grumpiness. My daughter once ate only breakfast because she didn’t like anything else I cooked – for 2 weeks. She just doesn’t care about food. I do agree, they get what you give them and if they don’t eat it they go hungry. Just know it is hard and heart breaking. You can get through it.” ~Kelly Backes Anderson
- Toss out the junk food and bring in the fruit & veggies.
- Try a “this bite, that bite”. Get their dinner AND their dessert ready, at the same time (maybe a plate of dinner and a cookie). Let them take a bite of dinner and a bite of dessert. One big bite of chicken = one small bite of dessert. This works wonders for my niece! She always eats her full meal (and she eats her dessert at the same time.)
- Have him make a healthy grocery list (cut out or pictures etc) bring him to the store and have him help with his list.
- Have him help prepare the food in age appropriate ways. Make ONE meal. Invite him to try it. Do not force. Children only have control over 2 things: what goes in and when it comes out. Forcing him to eat will cause him to hold his movements, then there’s all new problems.
- Invite cooperation as much as possible and avoid power struggles at all costs. If he says he doesn’t like it, gently remind him out taste buds change every 28 days. Only purchase healthy foods so it won’t be an option come dinner time.
- Find a local cooking class with him. There should be free ones in the area on healthy eating! ~Danielle Lumbruno Perrino