Do you ever wonder what you should say to a picky eater?

Do you wonder if the things you are saying to your child at meals are the “right things”?

The words we say have a HUGE impact on our kids at meals. I am a big believer in positive parenting and how this translates to our approach at meals as well.  We all want our kids to eat well – and eat healthy.  But we can quickly kibosh our progress simply by what we say.

How to talk to your picky eater:

Over the years, I’ve taken note of the phrases parents use at the table (including myself) and the impact that they have on their child’s eating – positive or negative.

I’ve noticed that there are some things we say to our picky eaters that spike a child’s anxiety at meals.  While there are other things we say to picky eaters that fuel their child’s interest in food.  So I wanted to write this post to arm you and other parents with the best things to say at the dinner table to support their child’s eating – and relationship with food.

Here are 4 positive phrases to say to picky eaters that will improve the way your kids eat.

Say this to your picky eater (#1):

Did you know your taste buds are always changing? So it’s OK if you don’t like [rejected food] now. It might be your new fave food soon, just like _______!

It’s important to teach our children that disliking a food doesn’t mean they will always dislike that food!  Changing their perspective of rejected foods will help them keep an open mind. Plus most kids think learning about food and science is pretty cool, right?!

Mealtime Fun Cards for Picky Eaters

Say this to your picky eater (#2):

Ok kids, dinner is ending in 2 minutes and there’s no more food until breakfast tomorrow so we can give our belly a break.

Sometimes kids get distracted, get up from the table, and need a little nudge or reminder of the food in front of them. So giving children, especially picky eaters, a heads up provides them with a final opportunity to eat (if they are hungry).  It also sets expectations for what happens after the meal.  So there are no surprises when you say “no” to a post-dinner snack or dessert.

Say this to your picky eater (#3):

You sat in your chair so well at dinner!

I don’t know about you, but I used to spend more of our mealtimes telling my daughter she needed to eat more, try something, staying still, talk less, etc.  I focused so much of my words on what she was doing wrong.  Regrettably, my mealtime phrases relied on a lot of negative reinforcement.  But picky eaters do so much better when they have positive reinforcement.  We need to tell our kids when they are doing something right at meals – and that their parents see that.  Let’s help our kids feel successful at the table so they will be willing to do even more next time!  Also, any non-eating-related compliment helps your child know that eating is not the only thing that makes mom and dad happy.

what to say to picky eaters

Say this to your picky eater (#4):

Let’s play food scientist at lunch and explore something new.  But we’re not allowed to eat it yet, OK?

Most children I work with enjoy pretending they are someone else.  They especially love playing “scientist”.  But as concerned parents, we naturally focus on ways to help our picky eaters eat.  When honestly, we need to spend less time on eating, and more on food exploration. Playing with food using their sensory system opens the door to more comfort, interest in foods – and ultimately more trying too.  If you need help with what to say to your picky eater to encourage more food exploration, you definitely want to check out the Curious Cookie Mat and Curious Cookie Cards!

The Curious Cookie Food Adventure Mat transforms your picky eater into a food scientist and takes them on a fun food journey. Now they are trying foods much faster!

The Curious Cookie Mealtime Fun Cards takes the pressure off your picky eater and makes it easier for them to interact with foods in ways they haven’t before!

Curious Cookie Placemat

I hope you found these 4 phrases to use at meals helpful.  These are the things we should TELL our picky eaters at mealtimes.

But did you know that there are QUESTIONS we should ASK at meals that are equally as effective?

If you’re usually asking your child things like:

  • Why won’t you eat your dinner?
  • Aren’t you hungry?
  • Can you just have one bite?

Then I have a better solution for you.  There are 10 questions that will help you:

  • Defuse power struggles
  • Make meals more enjoyable
  • Keep your child at the table longer
  • Show your picky eater that new foods can be fun!

Click to download –> 10 questions you should ask your child at meals.  

Oh and come follow at @curiouscookiekids for more tips on how to transform your picky eaters into adventurous eaters.