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Creating a happy mealtime environment.

If you are the parent of a fussy eater, I’m guessing mealtimes can be pretty stressful.  We want our children to have a well-balanced diet, but what happens when your child refuses to try any new foods or they start refusing foods that they have enjoyed in the past?  Well, we can find ourselves getting into a serious power struggle, which can heighten their fussy eating even more.

Creating a positive environment during mealtimes is crucial, it can either set them up for success or a power struggle.  Last year I completed the SOS approach to feeding training, this course was so valuable and taught me so much about the diversity of fussy eating. One of the many things I learnt in this course was the importance of positive language and how using key phrases can help the child work up the “Steps to Eating”.

Here are a few examples of how we can use positive language to avoid those mealtime power struggles:

Child: “That’s yukky, I don’t want it”

Parent:  “That’s ok you don’t need to eat it, let’s just pop it on your plate and we can learn about it”

If your child isn’t comfortable having the new food on their plate, then you could have a learning plate next to their plate.  Let them explore the food without any pressure to actually bite the food.  What colour is it? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? The more comfortable they become with the food, the more chance that they will take a bite.


Child:  “I don’t want dinner tonight, I’m not hungry”

Parent:   “Ok, well why don’t you come join the family and just sit with us. I’d love to hear all about your day?”

This approach actually gets the child to the table without a fight. Once the child realises there is no pressure for them to eat, they can start to relax and then may be more willing to start eating.


Child: “I’m finished, I want to go and play now”

Parent: “How about we jump up, get all of our wiggles out and then come back to the table for family time”

As a parent it can be frustrating when your child takes one bite and then says “I’m finished” and they start walking away from the dinner table. Children want to move, especially our toddlers and young children. Having a break during the meal to get all of our wiggles out is completely fine.


Child: “I’m finished, I don’t want anymore”

Parent: “Let’s listen to our tummy, what is your tummy saying?”

As parents we need to trust that our children know when they are full.  If they have only taken a few bites and are saying they are full, calmly remind them that this is all we are having for this particular meal.  The next opportunity to eat will be at the next snack or meal time.


Remember we want to make mealtimes a happy place for your child.  Try not to focus on the actual bite, focus more on your child being calm and happy at the dinner table and then the bite with eventually follow.

If you would like more support around mealtimes and your child’s fussy eating, please feel free to get in touch!


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