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10 Ways To Deal With a Picky Eater

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Sep 15, 2022

10 Ways To Deal With a Picky Eater

When young children do not want to eat, this is often a difficult challenge for parents. During this growth period, school children’s nutritional intake must be met properly, in order to support their development. Before frustration or worry gets the better of you, learn from our helpful tips on how to deal with picky eater kids.

What Causes Children To Become Picky Eater Kids?

Refusing to eat is actually a normal phase that many children go through in the developmental period of 6-9 years.

The main reason children don’t want to eat is usually because they have “fears” about new food. The fear can be due to the smell, shape, appearance, texture, or taste of new, unfamiliar food. And it is this concern that creates picky eater kids.

Unfortunately, this behavior narrows the variety of food in a child’s diet, affecting their daily nutritional needs.

Another cause of children not wanting to eat can also be due to appetite changes which often occur at this age.

In some cases, your child’s refusal to eat can also be a sign that they are sick.

picky eater kids

How To Deal With Picky Eater Kids

Approaches to overcome the problem of a child not wanting to eat can vary depending on the child.

Parents can begin by simply talking to their child. They can ask what the child is feeling and their complaints about the food. Parents should also pay attention to what types of  food their child doesn’t like, as well as what their favorites are.

In general, here are tips that can help you deal with picky eater kids:

1. Give Food in Smaller Portions But More Often

Giving a child large portions of food when they are having a hard time eating can make the situation more difficult. Instead of serving food in large portions, try to serve smaller portions but more often.

If applied regularly, this method can help regulate your child’s eating schedule so that over time, the problem of difficulty eating can be resolved.

2. Serve Meals at Regular Times

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is recommended that you feed your child according to a schedule. Children should be accustomed to eating three main meals and two snacks between main meals. At the same, this also teaches children about routines.

If your child is too tired, they may choose to sleep and refuse to eat. Instead, give a small snack or milk before the child takes a nap.

Ask everyone caring for your child to follow this routine.

3. Serve Food With an Attractive Appearance

If all this time you have been giving your child food with an ordinary or unappetizing appearance, try new ways to serve the same food. For example, try shaping the rice into animal shapes. You can form carrots into tree trunks, and cucumbers into treetops or grass.

Be creative in finding interesting variations for your child’s dinner plate.

This method can also be applied if the child is sick and does not want to eat at all.

4. Diversify Food With Various Flavors

When serving snacks in the afternoon and evening, you can offer savory food flavors and sweet fruits.

Sometimes, picky eater kids don’t want to eat because they are bored with the taste of food and want to try new flavors.

The more variety there is in a child’s diet, the more nutrients they receive. However, it is important to never promise sweet food for picky eater kids as a gift. Parents will often offer sweets as a reward if the child finishes their meal or if the child eats their vegetables. This will only reduce the child’s interest in the food they are eating.

picky eater kids

5. Give Them Their Favorite Food

When your child is sick and doesn’t want to eat, you can stimulate your child’s appetite by giving them their favorite foods. You can introduce new food by mixing their favorite dish with other types of food so that your child’s diet is more diverse.

6. Avoid Drinking When Eating

Many children often drink in the middle of eating. But in fact, drinking too much can make a child’s stomach feel bloated so that they only eat a little. To prevent this, you should limit the amount of water that children can drink during meals.

If your child is thirsty, give them a drink before eating, and try to avoid having them drink too much until their food is finished.

7. Introduce New Foods Gradually

Sometimes, picky eater kids won’t eat because they are not familiar with the food you serve.

If you want to introduce a new food, try to do it gradually. Serve a small amount first and then proceed to a larger portion on another day, after the child has tasted it.

Immediately giving new food in large portions can make children reluctant to eat, especially if they don’t like the appearance, texture, or aroma.

8. Involve Picky Eater Kids in Food Preparation

Interesting activities related to food can be a good way to help picky eater kids. For example, you can invite your child to play with cooking sets or invite them to prepare a meal together. Besides being fun, these methods also help you introduce the world of food to your child.

At the grocery, you can have your child shop for items on a list or let them choose the food they want. At home, you can also invite your child to help prepare food at the dinner table.

Activities like these can help encourage the positive development of a child’s eating behavior. In this way, they can also learn about various types of food, and they may become interested in new food.

9. Make Mealtimes Positive

Another way to deal with picky eater kids is to invite some of their friends over to the house to eat together. Usually, when eating with friends, children become more excited, especially if these friends can finish their food.

Keep your child away from the television, pets, and toys while eating to help them concentrate on what they are doing. In addition, do not scold or force the child to eat because it can make their appetite disappear.

Let the child eat with their hands if this is what they want. This gives them the opportunity to learn different textures of food.

10. Be a Good Role Model

Setting a good example for children can be one way to deal with picky eater kids.

Children often mimic the actions of those around them. So before asking children to try new food or finish the food you serve, set an example first.

There are times when you or your partner may avoid certain types of food. When this happens, do not be surprised if your child will also imitate these habits. Avoid showing this attitude in front of your child.

Another way that you can deal with picky eater kids is to tell your child about how you enjoy the food. This trick can inspire children to be more interested in trying new dishes.

Finally, make sure tell your child how happy you are to see them eating well. Children respond positively to encouragement and support, and this will make them more excited to finish their meals.

Learn more about Child Health here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Sep 15, 2022

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