Photo: Hannah Tasker via Unsplash

Some children are picky eaters, while others gobble down practically everything in sight. For those parents who struggle with getting their kids to eat, mealtime can feel nightmarish. Lucky for you, change is possible. Prepare to turn even the most challenging appetites into miniature foodies.

Here are 7 creative ways to feed your kids:

1. Use Fun Utensils. If you have a fussy eater, now’s the time to buy those adorable kid’s utensils you’ve been eyeing at the store. There are forks shaped like airplanes, trucks made to hold tacos, and even plates that make eating a game!

Honestly, with devices like this, mealtime should be just as much fun as playtime.

2. Make Tasty Treats. This tip is twofold. Firstly, if your kids don’t have food restrictions, get in the habit of cooking adult food. Season it as you would your own food and demonstrate how much you enjoy eating it. This is likely to make your youngsters curious enough to try it.

If they grow up eating bland kiddie food, you’ll have a greater challenge transitioning them to adult foods. However, keep in mind that people frequently use salt to season their dishes. While you may appreciate the taste, children require very little sodium in their diet. Instead, focus on other healthy seasonings like turmeric, garlic, and ginger.

Secondly, offer your children dessert if they finish the food on their plate. Frozen fruit smoothies and popsicles can be a sweet but healthy end to their meal. Pretty much every kid has a sweet tooth — making a tasty treat the perfect incentive for them to finish their veggies.

3. Space Out Meals. The human body has limits on how much it can eat at a time. If your child had a big lunch, they might not be as hungry at dinnertime. Space out the meals and offer nutritious snacks throughout the day. Babies usually feed every one to three hours, while toddlers and older kids will eat a mixture of snacks and larger meals each day.

4. Cook Together. Do your children help in the kitchen while you prepare their meals? Cooking together is a terrific way to teach them about nutrition. As they help you prep dishes, they can try new ingredients. By involving them in the process, you are sparking their interest and imagination. If they’ve helped you make the dish, they’ll be much more likely to try the food.

As a bonus, your children learn vital life skills that will be useful when they move out of the house. Many people struggle with cooking, and teaching your kids will help them cultivate these skills early.

5. Form Interesting Shapes. You can transform most foods into something fun and interesting with a cookie cutter or stencil. Everyone knows that a star-shaped lunch is much more fun to eat than a basic square sandwich! You can apply this same method to other foods like fruits and vegetables.

If the ingredients are difficult to cut, you can position them on the plate to form an image or word. Even a simple smiley face is more enjoyable than shapeless blobs of food. While distracted by the unusual designs, your kids won’t mind feeding themselves. For an educational twist, ask them to name the icons you made.

Easy shapes to create include:

  • Stars
  • Triangles
  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Faces

6. Invent Wild Names. Sticking with the theme of making mealtime fun and exciting, try inventing wild new names to pique your child’s curiosity. These can range from entirely different words to fun descriptions that will make trying new things an adventure.

Some examples include:

  • Broccoli, also known as miniature trees.
  • Bananas, also known as monkey food.
  • Grapes, also known as tiny juice balloons.
  • Carrots, also known as x-ray vision carrots.
  • Pretzels, also known as tree branches.

7. Eat at the Same Time. Do you eat at the same time as your child? Some parents choose to eat separately because they’ve only had time to prepare their kid’s meal and not their own. Break this habit by cooking more meals that are suitable for the entire family. A quick toss in the food processor will make atypical meals soft enough for your toddler to enjoy. However, make sure to follow safety suggestions regarding portion size and consistency to avoid potential choking hazards.

Besides encouraging your kids to try new foods, eating at the same time teaches them the importance of family mealtime. They’ll learn they have to wait at the table while everyone is finishing, which means they’ll have more time to nibble on their leftovers.

Look Forward to Mealtime

Using these creative tricks, your kids will be looking forward to mealtime. Remember to stay positive as you try these various methods with your family. Some will be more successful than others, but the key is to remain enthusiastic and optimistic. Children can sense things, and if you’re worried or stressed, it could impact their actions.

Keep an open mind, and feel free to try variations of these ideas. Maybe bright colors will interest your child more than fun shapes—do what works for you and your family!