Tiny tastemakers: How to make mealtime fun and exciting for picky eaters
by Eleanor Cullen on Oct 23, 2023
Mealtime with picky eaters can sometimes feel like a challenging culinary adventure, complete with twists, turns, and unexpected detours. But fear not, parents and caregivers! Turning mealtime into a playful and exciting experience can be the secret sauce that transforms even the most finicky eaters into enthusiastic food explorers. Say goodbye to mealtime battles and hello to a world where veggies are superheroes and every bite is an adventure. Welcome to the guide on how to make mealtime fun and exciting for your tiny tastemakers!
1. Plate Artistry: A Canvas of Creativity
Imagine a plate as a blank canvas waiting to be turned into a masterpiece. Transforming mealtime into an art activity is a fantastic way to spark your picky eater's interest. Arrange fruits, veggies, and proteins in fun shapes and patterns. Create smiley faces using carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, or craft a mini veggie forest using broccoli "trees." The more creative and colourful the plate, the more likely your little one will be curious to take a taste.
See our recipe – Bunny Fruit Salad.
2. DIY Dipping Delight
Kids love to dip things – it's practically a universal truth! Turn this inclination into a mealtime win by offering a variety of dipping sauces. Whether it's hummus, yogurt-based dressings, or nut butter, dipping can transform ordinary veggies and proteins into exciting finger foods. The interactive nature of dipping encourages exploration and helps develop fine motor skills. Plus, it adds an element of playfulness that's hard to resist.
See our recipe – Capsicum Hummus & Bunny Fuel.
3. Make-Your-Own Wraps or Pizzas
Give your kids the power to create their own masterpieces with DIY wraps or mini pizzas. Provide a selection of wholesome ingredients like whole wheat tortillas, cheese, lean proteins, and an array of colourful veggies. Let your little ones build their culinary creations just the way they like it. This sense of control can be empowering and encourages them to experiment with new flavours and textures.
See our recipe – Chicken Tacos.
4. Storytime Suppers: A Culinary Tale
What if mealtime was also story time? Combine your child's love for storytelling with food by creating a narrative around the meal. Make up fun stories about the broccoli being brave explorers venturing through the land of mashed potatoes or the chicken pieces embarking on a journey to flavour town. Engaging your picky eater's imagination can help reduce anxiety about trying new foods.
5. Food-Themed Games and Challenges
Turn mealtime into a game show or challenge. Create "eating missions" where your tiny tastemakers earn points or rewards for trying new foods or finishing their veggies. Set up taste tests with blindfolded "taste detectives" guessing different fruits or veggies based on taste and texture. These games make mealtime feel like an exciting adventure rather than a chore.
6. Colourful Adventures: The Rainbow Plate Quest
Challenge your kids to create a rainbow on their plate by including foods of different colours. Red strawberries, orange carrots, yellow capsicum, green peas, blueberries, and purple grapes – the possibilities are endless! Not only does this make the plate visually appealing, but it also encourages a diverse intake of nutrients. Food can also be arranged on skewers as another way to inject fun.
See our recipe – Mini Kebabs for Kids.
7. Picnic Magic: Indoor or Outdoor
Who says picnics are only for the great outdoors? Transform your living room into a picnic wonderland or venture into the backyard for a special mealtime adventure. Spread out a blanket, serve up finger foods, and let the picnic vibes work their magic. The change in scenery can create excitement and a sense of novelty.
See our recipe – Picnic Food Perfection: Mushroom and Spinach Arancini Balls.
8. Friendly Food Faces: Edible Characters
Turn food into loveable characters with edible faces. Pancake bears, apple slice smiles, and grape eyes can instantly make mealtime feel like a playful rendezvous with friends. Encourage your kids to give their creations names and personalities, and watch as mealtime becomes a delightful storytelling experience.
See our recipe – Mini Pizza Dudes.
9. Growing Together: Kitchen Garden Adventures
If you have the space, consider starting a small kitchen garden with your kids. Let them choose a couple of veggies or herbs to plant and care for. As they watch their plants grow, they'll develop a sense of pride and curiosity about the flavours they're cultivating. Harvesting their own produce and incorporating it into meals can be incredibly rewarding.
10. Celebrate Tiny Victories
Last but not least, celebrate the wins – even the tiny ones. If your picky eater takes a bite of a previously avoided food or finishes a meal without a fuss, acknowledge and celebrate it. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in building their confidence and openness to trying new foods.
Mealtime with picky eaters doesn't have to be a battlefield. By infusing creativity, playfulness, and a touch of imagination, you can transform the dining table into a place of exploration and joy. Remember, it's not just about what's on the plate, but the experiences you create around it that can turn even the pickiest of eaters into enthusiastic and curious food lovers. So, gear up, parents, and embark on a delicious journey of making mealtime an exciting adventure for your tiny tastemakers!