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How to: Encourage a Child to Eat a Meal

Did you know?

Depending on the individual routines of children in your setting, it’s possible that they’ll eat most of their weekly meals with you, rather than at home. Because of this, it’s important to make the most of mealtimes and enable Early Years to eat healthy, varied meals as much as possible. While this can be tricky with “picky” eaters, there are some ways to encourage a more varied diet.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
  1. Start small – introduce one new food at a time, starting with small portions.
  2. Change things up – new things can be fun and enjoyable. Encourage your little ones to try new textures and tastes instead of relying on the same old snacks.
  3. Get creative – whether it’s sandwiches cut into different shapes using cookie cutters, or silly names like calling peas ‘lizard poop’, children will be excited by a break from the norm.
  4. Set a good example – children won’t be too convinced by you telling them that broccoli is yummy if you’re tucking into a packet of crisps. Practise what you preach.
  5. Start at the beginning – growing your own veggies is exciting! Children learn about where our food comes from, and it makes it taste all the better when eating it! Check out TNL’s Farm Fresh activity plan for ideas.
  6. Give options – your little ones may be refusing some vegetables but happy to try a variety of others. While it’s important to encourage trying different foods, focusing on a child not eating sweetcorn when they would rather eat peppers, cucumber, carrots, celery or tomatoes is probably misguided effort.
  7. This or that? – instead of asking if a child wants X ingredient in a ‘yes or no’ question, ask if they would like one of two options (e.g. carrots or peas) to give them some agency over their meal.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Here at TNL we’re committed to providing the most useful content to Early Years practitioners. Feel free to get in touch on our socials at @thatnurserylife if you found this article useful!

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