Big Question: My three-year-old is suddenly a pick eater, what should I do?
First of all, know that this is normal and not at all uncommon. By the age of three, most children are speaking in complete sentences, and they are using this verbal ability to assert themselves… in all areas of their lives. While maddening at times, try to take a deep breath and remember that this is how children learn to figure out their needs and how to fulfill them.
It is also common for parents to place a lot of pressure on children to eat. We worry that they aren't getting enough nutrients and we want to avoid the irritability that comes with a hungry child. If this is happening at your house, try to back off a little. You can increase the possibility that your children will be hungry at mealtimes, by adhering to a schedule of three small meals and two snacks per day. Dessert should be served on special occasions and not be part of a daily battle called …“okay, two more bites and then you can have the cookie.” We’ve all been down this road or witnessed the dynamic in other families, and it makes mealtime tedious and not the relaxed time together that it should be.
The other common pitfall is asking a child what they want to eat. This isn’t always problematic, but more often than not when you ask a three or four year old if they want pasta for lunch, you are sending them the message that your kitchen is a restaurant with multiple meal options. Choices, especially for a young child, can be overwhelming. You know your child best and if what you are serving is being met with resistance, try offering a choice of two foods, but not more.
And finally, the likelihood that children will try new things or eat healthily is increased when they are involved in meal preparation. I’ve never met a child that didn’t like to cook or bake. When they have had a hand in making food, they can’t resist trying it.