How to Encourage Your Child to Eat

Many children are fussy or picky eaters. And this is understandable – new foods bring new tastes, textures, and experiences. But for many parents, it can become a larger problem and something that causes chaos at every meal.  Many parents end up avoiding the issue and give in to their child’s demands for certain foods; while others desperately search out good parenting tips to help them with their children’s food issues. Since we all know that a healthy balanced diet is important for our children’s development, here are a few tips for helping your fussy eater eat more.


The first key to unlocking your child’s hidden appetite is to create a positive meal time environment in which they are praised when they eat well. Children learn from those around them, so you must be a good example, even if you yourself are a picky eater. If you avoid certain foods your child will see this as acceptable behaviour, even if the scale of what you avoid is very different from theirs. Instead, make positive comments about enjoying your meal and its ingredients to give your child a more positive perspective on food and meal times. Eating together as a family unit helps create a positive eating environment, and has numerous other positive effects for you and your family.

On the flip side, giving too much attention to children when they do not eat can make fussy behaviour worse. Many parents use threats and punishment in an attempt to make their child eat well – we have all heard the phrase ‘if you don’t eat your greens, you won’t get any dessert!’ But older children will often turn contrary and learn that this is an excellent way of getting what they want. Older children push boundaries as they attempt to gain some control over their life. But a better way to give them some control via food is by asking them to get involved in preparing the meal. Even just chopping some vegetables or laying the table can satisfy this urge – particularly if – during meal time – the rest of the family makes positive comments about what they have contributed.

Food Challenges for Fussy Eaters

Now, this section is aimed at those of you who have ‘given in’ to your child’s fussy eating. One of the most important changes you can make is to stop labelling what they do not like. Doing this just affirms your child’s suspicions, rather than challenging them to better their habits and take a more positive attitude towards food.

For many children the problem is not that they are not encouraged enough, it is purely that they are not adventurous eaters. Here are some strategies that might help your child enjoy trying new foods:

Strategy No. 1

Tell your child that they have to chew and swallow, before they are allowed to say they don’t like something. We’ve all seen our children put food in their mouths and spit it out straight away claiming it is not something they like. If your child does this often, this strategy can be a good one to try.

Strategy No. 2

Tell your child that they must try something 10 times before you accept that they do not like it.

This is scientifically proven to be effective at increasing how children rate foods that they previously did not like. Many of us are just averse to the unfamiliar.

Strategy No. 3

Create a New Taste Challenge

Make a table or star chart to record how many new things your child tries each week. Depending on your child’s age, give a reward to encourage progress. Avoid making the reward food-related as helps underscore any food likes or dislikes your child might have. Set a new food target each week.