Do you have a picky eater? If so, then you know how tough mealtimes can be during the best of circumstances, but right now, during COVID quarantines, it can be downright impossible!
It’s not easy for your choosey eaters either. Picky eaters may be seeing more unusual things on the table and may feel under more pressure to eat them. These kids may want their usual, comfort foods, only to find they aren’t available right now.
But, there are ways you can deal with your picker eaters, even if their few favorites are no longer on the shelves, and alternative options could be limited.
But don’t panic, in fact some parents of picky eaters see a silver lining in the lockdown. You now have an opportunity to maybe introduce your choosy children to new choices, under circumstances where they are not under the pressures of eating at their regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner times.
Child psychologists agree that most picky eating stems from a developing child’s need for control. In a world where few choices are theirs to make, deciding what they put in their bellies is one place they can exhibit some control. With their environments so turned upside-down during stay-at-home orders, that need for control becomes even stronger, and your picky eaters may get even more stubborn.
So, what’s a mom to do? Embrace your child’s drive for autonomy, create a positive environment around food, and focus on enjoyment. Here are tips for fun activities you can try with your finicky eater while quarantined, and even when things may return to normal.
Share Kitchen Duties
During this quarantine, many families are cooking more than ever. Picky eaters can help. Kids can wash fruits and vegetables, and shred, tear, peel, and chop (with supervision) fresh produce. Try fun meals that the family can take “hands-on” participation in, such as, homemade pizzas or tacos – let your picky eaters choose their own favorite ingredients, even if they seem “weird.”
Create Fun Food Activities
Playing with food is something many parents discourage, especially at the table. But if you have a picky eater in your house, playing with food can be fun and encouraging.
Do these activities separate from mealtime or snack time to dissociate the experience from any perceived pressure to eat:
- Make a plate face with colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Decorate cookies or cupcakes with frosting, sprinkles, candy, or other toppings.
- Finger paint pictures using edible paint, pudding, or yogurt.
- Turn toast into a canvas for a modern “art ‘scape” using nut butter topped with fresh or dried fruit and seeds.
- Do a pretend TV show or interview about food: Let your child be the cooking show host or interview a favorite stuffed animal about snack foods.
Picky eaters may be overwhelmed by large bites of food or lots of vegetables on their plate. But they may be willing to test the waters with tiny tastes of food.
Let your child use a baby spoon to get a small taste of new food. Cut food into tiny bites (the size of the tip of a baby carrot).
Embrace the idea of MYO (make your own) snacks. Hand over the job of making snacks to the picky eater. Lay out a few acceptable options for snack time, such as cheese, deli meat, and crackers, and let kids make their own “cracker sandwich.”
Approaching it this way allows kids to make their own snacks while keeping the food options aligned with your family’s daily eating pattern
The experts all agree that during quarantine or anytime you may be dealing with a kid who won’t eat, never use food as a reward. And don’t worry if your child is occasionally picky; this is a natural part of development. However, if your child continues to have severe food aversions or cuts out whole food groups, or if you sense any anxiety with trying new foods, it may be beneficial to look for additional professional support.
Do you have a picky eater? How are you coping during the lockdown? Any tips you would like to share?