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15 July, 2021

Fussy eaters are not problem eaters

FOR parents one of the greatest concerns, they may have is regarding the eating habits of their child. It may range from what they eat through to not eating enough, either way, it is a concern for many parents.

By Peter McCullagh

A toddler who refuses to try a new food at least half of the time is a fussy eater. Up to half of all toddlers fit this description, so it is no surprise that food issues are a source of stress for parents.

However, children may be fussy at home with their parents when it comes to mealtimes, its often completely the opposite at mealtimes in a childcare setting.

Eating is a very important social activity and children learn important social skills when eating with others, it encourages self-feeding and exploration of food from early age.

Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they see their friends eating them.

Nicole Hanlon, Coordinator at Childs World encourages parents to relax a little when it comes to mealtimes for their toddler.

“Mealtimes can be a fun time as well as a learning experience for young ones.

“We do not worry about the mess at mealtimes. Children learn about food through touch as well as taste.

“Its worthwhile planning fun food activities to encourage children to try new foods. It’s good to also let children help prepare new foods and then serve the new food as a snack,” Ms Hanlon said.

“Getting children involved in food preparation will boost self-confidence and may encourage them to try the food they helped create and it is a great life-and-learning experience for them.

“In our centres, children are seated around a table so they can talk with and observe one another.

“Important social learning happens during mealtime as children learn new vocabulary and practice skills such as taking turns and sharing.

“Our cook considers different ages, dietary requirements, and cultural differences when designing our weekly menus, which are based on the Get Up and Grow Australian Government Guidelines and provides recommended servings of the 5 basic food groups.

“During mealtimes, our Educators also sit with children during meals and encourage conversation.” 

A variety of food groups and flavours is important to toddlers feeling confident to sample new tastes and food combinations will expand the range of foods they will tolerate.

“Children are willing to try new things when they are sharing a meal or snack with their friends. If just one child decides to take the plunge with a new food, it can open the door for everyone else. I cannot count the number of times I have personally witnessed this! “

The advice I often give parents is, if your child seems energetic and healthy, they are eating enough. Children tend to graze constantly; you will be surprised how little handfuls of healthy snacks add up.

Remember that your child’s growth rate is slowing as they get older, so their food intake may reduce. For further reassurance, check your child’s weight and growth charts or see your family GP or child health nurse.


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