Helping your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Foods

Posted: June 1, 2022

Selective eating is a common challenge that many parents face when raising children.  “Most picky eating behaviors are actually completely normal, and most kids will go through some form of this phase” (Remmer & Rosenbloom, 2021, p. 49).  As an Early Childhood Educator and parent, I have discovered that every child is unique, and that learning and development varies per child.  This includes their relationship to eating and food.  “As parents, we need to respect the pace at which our child takes to learn, and practice lots of patience in the process” (Remmer & Rosenbloom, 2021, p. 49).

What Age Does Selective Eating Begin?

According to Remmer and Rosenbloom, infants are generally introduced to new food experiences around the age of 6 months (2021). As the infant approaches the toddler years, typically around 18 months, “[The] toddler’s cognition matures and they are able to analyze and process details like colour, texture and taste more than they were able to as a baby” (Remmer & Rosenbloom, 2021, p. 49). Toddlers may then begin to show a dislike to a particular food or texture they once liked. During a toddler’s cognitive stage, they long for control. Choosing what to eat and how much to eat is one way to express this control. The innate need for control can create a power struggle between the parent and the toddler and make mealtimes unpleasant. “Control struggles between a parent and a toddler are normal – toddlers love watching parents become desperate when they refuse to eat something- after all, they are getting a reaction!” (Remmer & Rosenbloom, 2021, p. 50). How parents react to the toddler’s behavior can have a great impact on the outcome. A parent’s negative reaction can create larger eating issues later or a positive reaction can assist their toddler in establishing a healthy relationship with the food, diminishing the finicky eating behavior.

Suggestions to Support Adults and Children

. Respect your child’s appetite or lack of appetite

. Be patient when serving new foods

. Be creative in meal preparation

. Give your child some power – include them in the planning, shopping, and meal prep

. Let your child explore their food – playing with it, squishing it, mushing it…

. Serve new foods with familiar foods

. Keep serving new and rejected foods

. Be a role model when it comes to trying foods

. Validate that they are brave when trying something new

. Abstain from labelling them a picky eater

. Remember that sometimes they honestly just don’t like it

To further explore the topic, refer to the links below:
Remmer, S. & Rosenbloom, C. (2021). Food To Grow On: The Ultimate Guide to Childhood Nutrition from Pregnancy to Packed Lunches. Published in Canada by Appetite Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.