Child sits at the table looking upset at her plate.
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Picky eaters: tips and guidance for 8-year-olds

Picky eating is common, affecting up to half of elementary school-aged kids. While most eventually grow out of it, many are still finicky at age 8.

First and foremost, being choosy about what they eat doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your child. Lots of kids (and adults, for that matter) aren’t stoked about trying new foods. Aside from the taste, strange smells, textures, and colors are often enough to make a kid say, “Nope!”

So, what can you do? Find tips and ideas for picky 8-year-olds below.

What you can try

Trying to get your kid to eat different foods can be frustrating, especially when your attempts fail more often than not. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, here are a few things that might work.

Grocery shop together

Invite your 8-year-old to join you at the grocery store. While you’re there, encourage them to pick out fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. Since refusing to eat certain things is sometimes an attempt to exert control, letting them choose a few groceries might make them more willing to try something new.

Start small

According to the Mayo Clinic, large portions can overwhelm picky eaters. When offering new foods, present them in smaller portions. One to three bites’ worth is a good place to start, and if they like it, you can add more to their plate.

Wait and offer it again later

Your child may have tried (or simply refused) to eat various foods when they were younger. But as many parents know, kids’ tastes, preferences, and opinions are ever-changing. With this in mind, it’s worth offering previously rejected foods again.

Eat as a family

It won’t magically make a picky eater more adventurous, but eating as a family may help the cause. Put screens away, turn off the TV, and gather around the table. While enjoying meals together, you can chat about something you’re each looking forward to or share a fun thing you did that day.

Avoid short-order requests

The Mayo Clinic also says to avoid fulfilling short-order requests for food. Of course, you want your child to eat something, so it makes sense to cook a meal you know they’ll like. There are options for this approach!

It’s important to prepare just one meal for the entire family whenever possible. Why? Your child won’t be under the impression you’ll make them what they want if they refuse what’s offered, and they’ll be exposed (even if it’s just looking) to new foods. It’s important to offer at least one safe food at meals. This means you may need to add a serving of fruit or something simple, like rolls, to a meal. It’s not okay to leave a picky eater with a plate of unfamiliar food because many picky eaters won’t eat even if they’re hungry. A few bites of something familiar actually increases the odds they will keep eating and explore new foods. 

Make it fun

Developing ground rules is a crucial piece of the puzzle, but getting through to a picky eater is also about having some fun. Consider holding taste tests (blind or otherwise) or putting on a mock game show about trying new foods for prizes. New shapes, utensils or items like toothpicks or chopsticks can add to the fun.

Taking the pressure off of picky eaters can also improve the mood at meals. Forcing children to try new foods, or even rewarding their efforts can backfire. Removing pressure at meals also relieves stress for parents, it’s not your job to force or trick your child to eat.

Lean into favorite flavors

Not every picky eater prefers bland food. If there’s a particular flavor your child likes, try incorporating it into new foods. For instance, kids who like sweetness might enjoy honey-glazed carrots or barbecue chicken. And those who love ketchup might eat just about any vegetable dipped in it.

Respect your child’s tastes

Picky eating habits are common, but some kids’ palates are just more sensitive than others. Also, while many children grow out of it by the end of elementary school, it’s OK if it takes longer for your child. Respect their tastes, listen to their opinions, and remember this stage won’t last forever.

If you’re concerned about your child’s extreme pickiness, nutrition, growth, or development, check in with their pediatrician for insight and guidance.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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