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Monday, January 23, 2012

Picky Eating Chronicles

I'm on a quest. A quest to get my kids to eat a wider variety of foods, so they can lead healthier lives, and possibly turn dinner time into something fun again. That's not too much to ask, right?

I have to admit that in the area of picky eating, we were doomed. I'm a picky eater. My husband is a picky eater too, only about different things. Where I won't eat ground meat or anything resembling eggs and would be happy to eat vegetarian more than half the time, he loves hamburger and steak but won't touch squash or strawberries and apples. Yes, I said STRAWBERRIES. He's the only person I know that doesn't like strawberries. Other than my son, of course. So as I said. We were probably doomed to have picky children, both through genetics and the fact that because we know how it feels to be on the other end of it, we don't pull the "eat what is put in front of you or you don't eat at all" card.

We do, however, realize that life could be much easier if the kids are willing to expand their horizons. You know, so we could go out to eat and actually have everyone find something on the menu that they like. So the littlest one doesn't rely quite so heavily on "dinner cereal" (our solution to not being a short order cook - if the kids don't want the meal we have fixed for dinner they eat the one (super healthy) cereal we have designated as the dinner cereal). And because they are both getting old enough that trying to reason with them actually works once in a while.

After much discussion and research we have now set out on our quest. Our first plan of attack is a series of rewards and a sticker chart. We want to go really heavy on the rewards here at the first, while they are really enthusiastic and willing. Later we'll switch techniques. I have a few up my sleeve and I'm sure I can find more as needed. For now, this is the sticker chart, which we have taped to the inside of a cupboard door in the kitchen. The kids add a sticker on the calendar each day that they try something new. We track which foods they have tried and whether they liked the food or not. Any food that doesn't go on the Like column will be tried at another time (see I've done my research and I know that sometimes it takes many exposures to a new item before a child is willing to try it or like it). We make a point of offering them something new to try every night at dinner (sometimes more than one) and sometimes at other points during the day. Sometimes we decide what will be the new item, sometimes they get to choose one.
The rewards are:
-Trying a new food 3 days in a row = they get to pick a dessert
-Trying a 5 new foods (doesn't have to be in a row) = fun activity
-Liking 5 new foods = $
And once both kids have tried 30 new foods each we get to take a family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge (indoor water park - it looks really cool and they'd better earn it soon because what's the point of going to an indoor water park in the summer?!)

And guess what?! It's actually WORKING! Tyler surprised us by jumping on board right away and trying more foods than Kaitlyn in the beginning. His enthusiasm has fizzled a little and she is now ahead of him in the new food count. But despite a little more nudging than I would like to have to use at times, and having a hard time sometimes handling our own disappointment when they won't try something we know they will like, I'm pretty happy with their progress. As of last night Kaitlyn had 16 things on her list (and only 1 or 2 she didn't like) and Tyler was up to 12. That seems pretty good considering we are only 23 days into the month.

I'll update with our progress and new ideas as we go. And if anyone has any additional suggestions of ways to make it fun, foods that I may not have thought of as kid friendly, or anything else along those lines - please share!

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