Dinner is Served!
Sometimes children are deep in play when called for their dinner. I would advise gently moving them away from what they are doing in a fun way, or taking them to the kitchen to show them what you have prepared. If your child is watching television, aim to have a space of about 20 minutes before dinner. Get them to wash their hands and set the table to distract them from being pulled away from what they were doing.
Sing a Song
When dealing with a toddler, a great way of helping them to understand it is dinnertime is to sing a familiar song. Include their name in a well known tune like “Where is Jessica, Where is Jessica – Here I am Here I am” while bringing them to the table, they will understand it is dinner time. This will calm them about the idea and make them less likely to kick up a fuss or refuse to eat what is on offer.
Food Removal on Refusal
For older children, serving up unfamiliar food or a food you know they might not like, it can start with a battle.
Make sure not mash the food together, leave it separate for now instead. If they throw a tantrum, stay calm and ask them which food they do not like. Remove the food from the plate and place it in a bowl beside them.
Keeping it in sight will get them used to the idea of that food and hopefully they will conquer the fear of that food. At this point everyone is calm and we can now enjoy our meal. At some stage during the meal ask your child to taste the food that was rejected. They are more likely to do this when they are calm. Offer praise rather than rewards if they do so.
Try and Try Again
Unfortunately it can take up to 25 times before a child will accept a food. Be patient always making sure the food is close to them, even getting them to touch the food to break down the fear. Never force a child to eat something they don't want to, simply encourage it. Forcing foods can result in a child developing a fear or phobia of certain foods. Eventually I promise they will accept it, but only if they are not being forced to eat it!
Follow our Step 1, Step 3, Step 4 & Step 5 in Making Mealtimes more Enjoyable