Sometimes it is OK to play games at the dinner table! I can see some people tensing up already….. perhaps cringing?
It is a common occurance for children to refuse to eat their dinner with the following 4 words:
I DON’T LIKE IT!
This is before they have even tasted it.
By making dinner fun, you can encourage clean plates and happy experiences when it comes to food. Food associations can be caused by traumatic experiences surrounding mealtimes which believe it or not still exist. Parents running low on energy and full of frustration shoving spoonfuls of food into their child’s mouths while the child cries his or her way through the meal still happens unnecessarily. This type of experience can cause long-term issues for children and does not benefit anyone. Parents also end up guilty and even more frustrated.
If you have a fussy toddler or neophobic try this and adapt it as required to suit your dinner table. Think of the words encourage, praise, reward, success, self-fulfillment and remove those horrid words like force-feed, threats, punishment, and discouragement from your meal-time.
The Guess what you can taste game:
Who can play: The game targets fussy eaters but sometimes this requires others at the table taking a turn.
Where to play: At the dining table / counter
How many players required: Min 2
How to play: After placing dinner on the table and having everyone sit down, give the child time to see what is for dinner. They will be looking for familiar colours, shapes, textures. Maybe there is something new on the plate, maybe there is not. Following those 4 dreaded words…. I DON’T LIKE IT, tell your child you are going to play a game. The game is a guessing game where the child needs to use their taste buds and be a detective/Inspector/superhero (whatever title most excites your child). Fill the spoon or fork with something(s) from the child’s dinner plate while he/she sits eyes closed (if they peep it’s ok! – just remind them). The child then chews the food guessing what they are eating.
If they need help to guess, ask them questions like is it soft, chewy, sweet etc.. also building on their vocabulary but giving them hints as to what it might be.
Lots of excitement and praise is given for all items guessed, even if they’ve only guessed one right, let them feel success for that rather than failure for what they did not guess. Go again with more selections from the dinner plate and continue to see how close to getting a clean plate you can get. Not only are you encouraging eating, you are also teaching your child about the science of their body – taste buds.
Some phrases of praise you might use during this game:
“You’re very clever”
“Oh my goodness, you only have 3 spoons left”
“I’m so proud”
“You’ve guessed it”
(I’m sure there are lots more)
Have fun and good luck! I know first hand that fussy eaters can be testing but there is always a positive solution.