Tips for Feeding Kids!

Here’s a frequently asked question….

How do you get kids to EAT FOOD?

Good question! I’m still venturing through this myself…but here are my tips so far. Let’s get started!

FIRST: Keep it interesting! MIX IT UP!

Make silly faces with food. Cut out funny shapes & have them guess what they are!

Cooper ate a WHOLE English cucumber yesterday because I cut it up into triangles, rectangles, squares and circles. SCORE! It’s hard to make an oval out of a cucumber. Try it.

making snack time more interesting....

Get kids involved in food prep!! Put them to work! They really like eating the food they make!

Teach them how to clean up because a good cook always cleans up. (My mom drilled this into my head!)

Get them excited about eating! Cooper loves going out for Indian food because there’s a promise of a mango lassi! He even orders it himself at the restaurant! Teach your kids how to behave in restaurants. Waiters don’t bring Mango Lassis (sp?) to misbehaved boys.

Encourage them to try new things. Cooper LOVES spicy foods and found love in a bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala! Who knew? It’s only because I told him it was a dip for his naan. He kept dipping the naan into the bowl, then he grabbed his spoon and ate the rest of it!

indian food!

Turn snack time into a COUNTING GAME!

Cooper can count up to 10 pieces of popcorn!  Sometimes he thinks 14 comes after 10. Fourteen is his favorite number this month. He also prefers the letters D & F.

Speaking of letters…Spell words with food! Make them guess the letters. Teach them how to say your nickname because it’s cute when they say it in their kid voice. I like when kids say “bean.”

Add greens to their smoothies! Tell them it’s a MONSTER SMOOTHIE!! Tell them it turns them into a superhero.

When it becomes part of their routine, they’ll point out when you forget to put the green stuff in.

Just don’t let them touch the blender! That’s not safe. And keep the blender unplugged ’til you’re ready & and they’re out of the way!

Make food part of your drawing!! The turtle I drew sure loves bean crisps! Wouldn’t they be cool as tree trunks?

Turn healthy juices into popsicles! Here’s a popsicle made with Pineapple Mango Carrot Ginger Juice! Cooper has no idea that he’s consuming carrots. He hates carrots. Haha sucker!

If a child is hungry, they’ll eat! Don’t force food on them. They don’t like that. It’s a control thing.

They like to show you who’s boss and it’s definitely not Tony Danza.

Let them see if hummus is a good face moisturizer and try not to cringe in the process! It’s important for them to explore the taste & texture of food…even if it ends up jammed into their ears!  Always do this before bath time!

A few more tips:

-Write down a list of all the things your child eats. Refer to the list when you’re in a food rut. You might forget something! Pull something out of your bag of tricks.

-If they’re not touching their food ask them “How does a SHARK eat an apple?” Watch them show you. They like doing this. Always go for the powerful eating animals. Tigers, rhinos, lions & bears work well too.

-Give them the foods they’re least likely to eat FIRST! If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat just about anything. If I give Cooper a piece of buttered toast first, he’ll eat it, then ask for MORE TOAST while totally ignoring the bowl of strawberries on his tray. Greedy! Also related–Don’t give them too many options!

-Let your child watch their friend eat broccoli. It’s a positive spin on peer pressure!

-Don’t panic when they don’t try something. Keep at it!  (I’m still trying to grasp this one!)

And there you have it!! A few tips based on feeding my almost 3 year old.

Do you have any tips? I bet you do!  Let’s discuss!

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54 Comments

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  • June 13, 2011

    loved every word of this my friend. so good & extra cute!

  • Johanna
    June 13, 2011

    These are so cute pictures! Spelling words with food is an excellent idea! Why didn’t I realize that when my son was learning to read, he was so little back then… I guess I tried everything else. He tasted but did not like almost anything. Oh, I have similar picture of my son trying oatmeal as face moisturizer :)

  • Erinlucy
    June 13, 2011

    I love all these tips and that pic of cooper and the smoothie is so friggen cute! One of my tips is to have your toddler/baby eat the same meals as you right from the start. I never want to end up a short order cook making one adult meal and one kid meal every night! Plus I’d say avoid ‘kid’s meals’ at restaurants at all costs! Those things breed fussy eaters in my opinion!

  • June 14, 2011

    Is it wrong that I use some of these tips on my boyfriend??

    • June 14, 2011

      Not at all. Just don’t cut up his meat. That’s not attractive.

  • June 14, 2011

    Yes, yes, YES!

  • June 14, 2011

    love this post! i used to be a preschool teacher (2′s) and we had family style lunch. we had to get them to serve themselves, pass the bowls around, and eat some of everything. that, combined with endless potty training and 10-20 two-year olds was quite the task. the classroom rule was that they had to serve themselves a little of everything and try everything on their plate. just a bite and they didn’t ever have to clean their plates. my grandma used to make me sit in my highchair until i cleared my plate (old school) and i still feel compelled to finish everything in front of me…also, i like food ;)

    • June 14, 2011

      A preschool teacher!!! WOW!!! I like this about you. I’m glad I wrote this so I could find that out.

      • June 15, 2011

        i’m glad you wrote it too! kids are the coolest!

  • June 14, 2011

    This is so good! I have worked in a restaurant and watched mums trying to hold their toddlers’ head still and cram some food into their mouth. I have seen kids even turn down ICE CREAM when they do this. It is all about the (literal and metaphorical) carrot, not the stick.

  • June 14, 2011

    My mom also drilled it into me that cleaning up was part of cooking…to this day I clean as I go and, by the time I’m done, I only have a few dishes left. It’s a good habit to get into!

  • June 14, 2011

    @Kathryn – LOL!

  • June 14, 2011

    He is cute! All this did was make me want to have a kid. Is that weird?

  • Carrie
    June 14, 2011

    My kids have to clean their plates to get dessert…I flip the plate over and serve it on the underside!

  • Kris
    June 14, 2011

    Really sweet, thoughtful tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • June 14, 2011

    Great advice! The counting game and having them show how an animal would eat something are tips I haven’t heard before.

    Growing up I had good role models, my parents ate a variety of food and never let on if there was something they didn’t like. (I didn’t know my dad doesn’t like peppers until I was in college) My mom especially would always encourage me to try new foods and would offer me some of what she got at a restaurant so I could try it. We had a rule that everyone had to try something at least twice before they could decide if they didn’t like it. And if an ingredient was prepared differently then we had to try it again since it was different. I found out that I didn’t like steamed brussels sprouts but I do like grilled brussel sprouts.

  • June 14, 2011

    This post is adorable and so smart! I love that you snuck carrots into his popsicle and that you called him a sucker, ha!

    • June 14, 2011

      haha!!! that made me laugh when i typed it.

  • June 14, 2011

    haha love these ideas!

  • June 14, 2011

    i let the little choose between things to eat – meatballs OR hot dog [she doesn't need to know it's a tofu hot dog]

    i let her dip things into small amounts of sauce [ketchup, japanese tonkastu or teriyaki] – she’ll eat more meatball, or chicken, or even peas if she can do this

    i save the fruit for last because she adores fruit. one more bite of XYZ and you can have as much fruit as you want

    i don’t sweat it if she asks for the same thing [cheesy noodles] day after day after day. eventually she switches it up.

    but i should try shapes – have NOT done that :)

    and there is never any forcing of food. that just doesn’t work
    and she ALWAYS puts her fork into dishes after she’s done :)

    and she skips to 16 after 14. almost everytime :)

    • June 14, 2011

      awe!!!! i love that girl. You’re such a good mama, Lisa!

  • June 14, 2011

    I love that you called your son, “sucka.” I have a feeling I’ll be incorporating these tricks into my routine once I’ve got a wee one of my own. Nice work putting together a comprehensive list of tricks.

    • June 14, 2011

      Thanks! Apparently they work for husbands too… ;)

  • June 14, 2011

    There are so many good tips here Tracy. Very creative and fun ways to encourage a love of eating. I think the main thing to keep in mind, not for you in particular but for all of us, is that sometimes kids are picky and no matter how much we want them to eat what we put in front of them, it may not happen. My two boys eat completely differently, even though I feed them the same things and in the same manner. This is not a learned behavior but a part of their genetic makeup. But some specifics:

    1) I put everything they will be eating on the plate at the same time. I used to start with the healthiest thing, wait until they finished it, and then add the starch, fruit whatever. I felt like that backfired because if they didn’t like what I gave them, they would just stop eating. Now I feel like momentum can take them from strawberries to quesadilla etc. Also if they ask for more fruit I can say they have to finish the quesadilla first. It is right in front of them so no argument.

    2) To re-iterate what you said, I never force them to eat anything. But dinner is dinner so if they are hungry they need to eat. Sometimes they will ask for a snack before bed and if they have eaten their dinner, they can have something “healthy”, if not, no snack.

    3) They love fruit leathers, fruit snacks, granola bars etc for snack. The rule is they have to have cheese, nuts, yogurt, or some other protein-laden thing before they get the fruit or bar.

    4) I have learned not to assume. I assume that they won’t like something only to have them try it willingly and like it. This goes for a picky eater or an adventurous one.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    • June 14, 2011

      We are starting to venture into the reasoning/bargaining technique! Some days it works…others not so much. I can’t wait for it to WORK!!

      Love your tips. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • June 14, 2011

    Cute post – love the photograph of the fruit and veggie face.

    My 3 year old has a great appetite, but the problem is that he is such a busy boy he never wants to sit still to eat meals. I finally decided to bring books to the table, so he can ‘read’ and eat at the same time.

    And, I have been looking for those popsicle mold things to freeze fruit juice, but can’t seem to find them anywhere? Ideally something not made of the BPA, scary plastic stuff. Any suggestions?

    • June 14, 2011

      Yes! I’ve tried that technique but the books & toys get super messy and distract Cooper too much. We have a mirror not far from his high chair and he is SOOO entertained by watching himself eat. It’s hysterical. Maybe that would help?

      I got the freezer molds at Bed Bath & Beyond many years ago. I bet you could find a good one online! I know Martha Stewart makes some too!

  • Great post. And I don’t even have kids! I sent this to my sister and told her I needed to borrow my nephew so I could smear hummus on his face.

    • June 14, 2011

      hysterical. That’s EXACTLY what you should do as an auntie!! Give him candy too! Make yourself the cool aunt.

  • Linda
    June 14, 2011

    I grew up in a family of 6 kids and not a lot of money. It was often a struggle for my parents to put food on the table. Needless to say, we ate whatever was put on our plates whether we liked it or not (talk about old school)! But my Mother, in all her Mommy wisdom, allowed each kid to pick one food they hated. Whenever that particular food was served, that kid didn’t have to eat it. My brother Billy HATED peas so much that when he died (sadly at the age of 46) we put a can of peas in his casket just to piss him off throughout eternity.

  • Sue S.
    June 14, 2011

    found you thru Jamie’s website. I love the way you make food creative for your “almost 3 yr old”. I have a 2 yr old and 3 yr old (grandchildren) who live w/us. And we have wasted so much food. I am going to try some of your tricks. I was shocked when our 3yr old grandson loved my “crisp beans”. I thought they would be all mine but no he loved them so share I did. I just wish I could get him to eat more veggies. His sister loves them and he used to love them then changed to eating any kind of pasta and meats. I am in hopes he will love his veggies again. At least he tried to eat raw broccoli when I was washing it getting it ready to be steamed but he sd “yuk”.

    He loves to watch me cook everything. Sits on our island and watches everything. maybe he will become a chef!!

    Great post!

    • June 14, 2011

      Thanks! Keep at it! I think it’s really great that he loves to watch you cook! Make him your helper!

  • June 15, 2011

    Yay! I’m getting so many great ideas for my little guy. He’s approaching 1 and I have been making his baby food since he started on solids at 6 months. He’s a great eater, I just run out of fun ideas, so this is great!

    My tips for feeding a little one include:

    - Have a wide variety, lots of color and different textures
    - Don’t rush them
    - Let them make a mess
    - Don’t assume they don’t like something if they don’t eat the first few trys. Keep trying!

    It’s also been really helpful for me to keep a list of foods, dishes, snacks etc to refer to when I am in a bind or a food rut.

    I can’t wait ’til we can cook together, how fun!

  • June 15, 2011

    good stuff! Thanks for all the ideas. I have the most success with my two year old daughter when I give her a couple of choices(I dont do this every time, but most of the time). Do you want a quesadillo or pasta? Do you want a banana or blueberries? etc……..she loves getting to pick and it gives them some control.

  • June 16, 2011

    Such a cool post! You’re good at things! And your son is adorable.

  • Great post! Love your berry words. Smoothies are a big hit with my kids but I never thought to add greens. Will have to try that soon.

  • June 20, 2011

    Loved this; thanks for so many great (and funny!) ideas!

  • Becky
    June 28, 2011

    We got Joss to eat broccoli by doing “cheers” with our forks. She thought it was hilarious and forgot what she was eating :)

  • July 1, 2011

    These are all great tips. But there’s a big one missing. If you want to change how your kids eat you have to change how you interact with them around food. It’s important to evaluate the messages (unintentional, most of them) that you are sending. For instance, most parents put undue pressure on toddlers to eat more than they want. Some kids respond to this by eating less. Many parents feed their children so often that their kids know they don’t have to eat now because there will always be food later. Almost all parents teach their children to dislike vegetables by feeding them a diet that looks, tastes, smells, etc. nothing like vegetables—a diet filled with toast, cereal, pb&j, chicken nuggets, etc. trains taste buds away from broccoli—and then bribe them with dessert—if you eat 3 more bites of veg you can have a cookie—which research shows teaches kids to like dessert and not broccoli.

    We do all these things in the name of good nutrition. But these tactics teach kids bad eating habits nonetheless.

    It’s not what you feed that matters so much as what you teach.
    Dina
    http://www.itsnotaboutnutrition.com

  • Ah! This is so dang cute.

  • July 20, 2011

    Getting kids to eat isn’t really my area, but I had to express my approval of the produce face. :) (and Cooper is as cute as ever)

  • Lisa
    February 1, 2012

    trying different preperations of a food that’s been rejected will let you know which ones your child really doesn’t like. Try sweet potato fries if plain or casserole sweet potatoes were rejected. Kids really do have preferences, but sometimes they have a texture issue and it’s not really the food!

    • February 1, 2012

      Cooper has a VISUAL preference for food. He won’t even taste something if it looks different!

  • Elise
    February 16, 2012

    Cooper is so cute! These are great tips- we’re struggling with getting an overweight 5 yr old to consume anything that isn’t a carbohydrate :(

    • February 16, 2012

      Thanks! Cooper is a carb junkie! Fortunately he’s pretty active so he’s staying trim. Maybe you can work on getting him active? Good luck!

  • Ashley
    June 13, 2012

    I love this! My 2 year old daughter is a carb junkie/picky eater as well but has always been very healthy. We just need to get her to expand her diet a little more. I will be testing these tips out this summer for sure! It’s funny, I worked in Daycare for years and now teach and an Early Learning and Childcare college program and I still struggle. It’s so helpful just to hear tips and tricks from other moms! Gets the ideas flowing :)

  • Tara
    September 5, 2012

    First, I really love your site. I love reading it and taking it all in – it inspires me. Second, I just now found this post. Again, inspired. I have an almost 3 year old and a 14 month old and recently I’ve found myself in a rut. This has given me some new ideals and some helpful tricks. Thanks!

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