Picky Eater? 5 Great Benefits of Serving Meals Family Style

picky eater

{Guest post for KidzEdge Magazine} Just like in the rest of their lives, kids (especially picky eaters) thrive with eating when parents provide both respect and boundaries with food. Yet this isn’t often talked about when experts provide advice on nutrition for kids.

A simple strategy for establishing respect and boundaries in ways that support kids to try new foods on their own is serving foods family-style.

Family-style is when serving dishes are placed in the middle of the table and everyone gets to serve himself or herself. Even toddlers and preschoolers can serve themselves with help.

I’ve had many families email me in disbelief that it’s worked like magic!

Why does it work? It’s not magic. It’s all about power and control.

    • Kids want to grow up and mimic what they see adults and older kids doing. Serving themselves seems like such a “big boy” or “big girl” thing to do.
    • Toddlers and preschoolers are in the “me do it” developmental stage. They take such pride in “helping”. Having them serve themselves uses this developmental stage to your advantage.
    • Serving family-style removes you from being a sparring partner for toddlers and preschoolers who love a negotiation. With no one to battle, many kids simply get down to the business of eating.
    • Cautious kids often crumble under the pressure of being forced to try something (also known as the one-bite rule). And, some crumble with even having a food present on their plate. Serving family-style allows them to proceed at their own pace. The offending food doesn’t have to be on their plate. But the opportunity is there for them to help themselves when they’re feeling brave enough to try it.
    • Toddlers and preschoolers often go through a stage where they’ll inspect each piece of food and reject it for microscopic flaws that are naked to the eye of anyone over the age of 18. Okay, I’m being facetious. But if your child is in this stage then you’ll know what I mean. Serving family-style helps you keep your cool because everyone else at the table can get on with eating their meal while your little one inspects each morsel. Therefore, resulting in a much more pleasant meal. And when mealtimes are pleasant, kids eat better.

Try serving meals family-style to see if this strategy will work its magic with your picky eaters.

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