I do not have wonder kids. My boys have the same picky days, weeks and months, just like most children. My boys will eat something for a long time, only to turn up their noses at the same food, just out of the blue. My boys, though they might have different likes and dislikes than your child, are very typical preschool and early elementary eaters.
Yet despite all their typical-ness, sometimes they’ll be caught eating something unusual or atypical for kids to like, and a friend or neighbor will ask me, “how did you get them to eat THAT?” I’ve been thinking about it this week and I think the answer in many cases can be boiled down to “pride in ownership.”
Take R for example: he is particular in what foods he likes and dislikes. He isn’t into bananas or grapes, but loves kiwi and pear. He would rather not eat corn (except if it is on the cob, which can drive me bonkers in the winter when cobbed corn is not readily available and I try to reason with him that it is the same exact corn!) but will eat broccoli and, get this, frozen green beans like they are going out of style. R likes to be in control, and I would argue, most children are this way. So why not allow them to take this control and use it to make healthy food choices.
Oh sure, if my boys had full control of food choices they would probably choose chips for breakfast followed by a lunch of ice cream and cookies. So I am not suggesting handing over the reins of all food choices, but giving your child bridled ownership of their food selections.
I am using this philosophy a lot this summer as I attempt to develop a list of lunch dishes R will actually eat for lunch when school begins in the fall. This will be R’s first foray into eating lunch at school and since I plan to pack his lunch, I need a workable list of options to pack. Trouble is, R is not a sandwich man, and while I can be flexible with doing things like hummus and pita (one of his favorites) or even deviled eggs, I would like a few other ideas. I had been trying out my own ideas on R for the last few months and after several months R’s lunchbox sandwich list read like this:
Not much to go on, eh? So I switched gears and started asking R if he would like to develop his own lunch sandwich creations. Instead of me begging him to try a good ole’ PB&J or turkey on wheat, I’ve given him a lot of different sandwich breads, fillings and toppings and allowed him to come up with some favorite combinations. I told him we would try out each sandwich to see what he likes and doesn’t like and then come up with “R’s lunch box sandwich list.” It is working great, as his list has expanded to:
2. Hummus and Cucumber
3. Cheese with Ketchup and Mustard and Lettuce
4. Ham and Parmesan Cheese
So we’re making progress! And I truly believe that this progress is largely because R is the one creating the sandwich options, not me.
So my Tuesday’s Tip for the week is to give your child a bit of pride in ownership with their meals. Whether this involves shopping for the items, helping prepare the meal or choosing the menu (within preset boundaries), a little ownership of the food choices could be just the thing your little one needs to encourage a healthy choice.