Hello There Beautiful Momma,
As a mom of 2 toddlers, I know first hand how difficult it can be to get your toddler to eat well. And as a behavior analyst, food selectivity is one of the top complaints I receive from the parents I work with daily.
So this blog post is dedicated to all the moms out there who are at their wits end with trying to get their child to eat better. If you want to learn some proven strategies to decrease picky eating, then keep reading. This post is for you my dear!
But before we dive into all the tips, y’all know I believe in keeping it real. So I below I have shared with you a video of me working with my son, RJ. This day in particular I was so fed up with his eating habits and after just buying him a Happy Meal from McDonald’s I was starting to feel the pressure of mom guilt:
Where did I go wrong? How am I a behavior analyst and my own son is such a picky eater? And all the negative thoughts started rolling in.
So I said no more, I turned off “mom guilt radio” and I began to take action. The truth is I know the strategies that work to fix this problem. However, in the busyness of life I got caught in the rut of picking up quick meal options that I knew my kids would eat which in turn continued to reinforce my child’s picky eating habits even more.
Side note: If you are in search of some new healthy meal options for your toddler, check out this blog post from Think Baby. Avoid the mealtime rut and try of some of these fun and healthy kid-friendly recipes. Also, if you’re like me and have a younger child at home and are interested in making your own healthy baby food, check out this blog post to learn how.
And to be quiet honest, after implementing feeding programs sometimes on a daily basis a work, the last thing I wanted to do was to have to do the same thing at home.
However, RJ’s picky eating was getting out of hand and it was time for me to be consistent and implement these proven and effective strategies at home.
So here you go, happy viewing!
Alright friends, here is what you have been waiting for:
6 Strategies to Get Even the Pickiest Eater to Try New Foods:
Find a high value reward for trying new foods & Confirm your child’s motivation:
Motivation is a huge component for this procedure because you will be rewarding your child with preferred food items for complying with taking bites of the new foods you present. So in order for this to be effective, you need to ensure that your child is motivated to earn to the rewards you have selected. Start by presenting a variety of high value potential edible reinforcers (rewards) and have your child choose which one they want. Allow them to sample a little piece of the preferred food item.
2. Use Grandma’s Rule (“First ______, then you can have _______):
So Grandma had it right! A great way to get your child to try new foods is teach them the “first, then” reinforcement contingency and that reinforcers (rewards) are available contingent upon appropriate behavior (in this case trying new foods).
For example, first try the peas, then you can have a cookie. This procedure will give your child a clear expectation of the tasks to be completed in order to earn the reinforcer.
3. Incorporate the Shaping Game:
In behavior analysis, shaping is a process in which successive approximations of a terminal or target behavior are reinforced until the target behavior is reached. In other words, you reward closer and closer approximations that resemble the final goal you are trying to reach. This process works extremely well when trying to introduce new foods to your little one. For example, you can start with first getting your child to look at or touch the new food and then allow to get access to the preferred food item, then increase the expectation. Make it a game and fun for your child. Below is an example of approximations you can try:
- “First look at the (new food), then you get ____”. The next approximation with the non-preferred food item should not be introduced until the child is consistently performing the current approximation without engaging in problem behaviors.
- “First touch the (new food), then you get (reward)”
- “First hold the (new food), then you get (reward)”
- “First smell the (new food), then you get (reward)”
- “First lick the (new food), then you get (reward)”
- “First smell the (new food), then you get (reward)”
- “First put the (new food) in your mouth then spit it out, then you get (reward)”
- “First take a small bite of the food, then you get (reward)”
- “First take a bigger bite of (or take 2 bites) the food, then you get (reward)”
4. Use Behavior Momentum:
Create momentum and get your child to comply with a non-preferred task (trying a new food) by first presenting a series of easy tasks they have a high probability of complying with.
For example, say something like, “Give me a 5! —> Awesome!—> Look at the pea—>Good job! —> What color is the pea? Great job!—> What shape is it?—> Terrific—> Take a bite!”
5. Incorporate Positive Reinforcement:
As I have already discussed, reward your child’s compliance with trying new foods by giving them access to preferred edible items. Make sure you are using valuable reinforcers and that you deliver them immediately after your child complies with your request to try the new food. In addition, deliver high rates of enthusiastic praise for appropriate behaviors and trying new foods.
6. Allow chasers!
Remember these are new foods for your child and it may take some time for your child to get use to them. So follow up bites of new foods with a preferred drink of choice (i.e., juice, flavored water, etc.).
Okay Beautiful Momma, now it is your turn to take action and make it happen! First, download our meal planning guide for picky eaters and during your child’s next snack time try the strategies discussed today! Remember to be patient with yourself and your kiddo!
Hugs, Kisses, and High Fives,