Parents of picky eaters often get judged. Judged for not having their kids try enough foods or managing mealtime behaviors, judged for not doing ‘it’ (mealtimes, snacks, discipline etc…) the way someone else has done it or heard it should be done or seen it work.
Eating is central to our survival, which makes it incredibly stressful if it doesn’t go smoothly. It is difficult, complex and different for everyone. Kay Toomey says it beautifully as she disproves ‘Myth # 3: Eating Is Easy,” in her article ‘Top Ten Myths Of Mealtime in America,’:
“Eating is the MOST complex physical task that human beings engage in. It is the ONLY human task which requires every one of your organ systems, and requires that all of those systems work correctly. In addition, EVERY muscle in the body is involved (one swallow for example, takes 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves to coordinate). Plus, eating is the ONLY task children do which requires simultaneous coordination of all 8 of our sensory systems. Learning, Development, Nutrition and the Environment also have to be integrated in to make sure a child eats correctly.”
So, when we see a parent stressed that their child won’t eat, let’s first acknowledge that we have no idea what this family and child’s history includes. There goes the judgement.
Instead of judgement, let’s offer compassion. First, to yourself (because that’s where it all starts–you can’t be kind to anyone else unless you’re being kind to yourself).
Then to others by recognizing that it’s stressful when feeding your child is a struggle, scary to worry they’re not getting enough or the right nutrition, daunting and exhausting to search for medical answers. And this only scratches the surface of stresses that come with feeding difficulties.
And finally let’s be thankful: thankful if eating comes easily to you and your family and thankful if you have access to the nutrition you and your family need. Wow, that’s a lot of life, right there, to be thankful for!
For food play activities today you could give your child a choice of a cookie cutter, then use it some way in every meal and snack. I like the idea of making it a heart-day in honor of compassion, but whatever your child picks will probably be most motivating to them :-).
Have fun and happy food play!