Do you have a picky eater in the family? Nothing is more difficult than being on the road and struggling to find something your little one will actually eat—no one wants a cranky kid before you get the chance to do your first activity of the day. Travel, however, is the best way to entice your child to try something new. Try these tricks at home to broaden his horizons before you head out to wander.
Make something together
My toddler loves to cook with me, and he is always interested in eating what he worked so hard to make. When your child gets the opportunity to work with you in the kitchen, he understands what goes into preparing a meal and can definitely appreciate it more. Invite your little person to do things like smell the spices and ask them which ones they like the best—use those to season the food. Have them help you measure ingredients and mix them—allow them to taste as you go along so they can enjoy everything you are putting together from start to finish.
I’ll never forget the first time we took my son to Hibachi. His eyes were as big as disks when he watched the chef throw around his tools, make an onion volcano and light the grill on fire. Not everywhere you go offers dinner and a show, but there is always an opportunity to allow your child be a part of the experience. Read the adult menu to him and ask him to choose an appetizer for the table. Let him pick his own dinner—even if it isn’t something on the children’s menu—and make sure he orders it for himself when the waiter comes around.
Staff and friends alike are stunned when we go to a seafood restaurant and my toddler orders baked fish—off the adult menu. He loves it, mostly because he has been eating dishes like haddock and shrimp before he was old enough to understand that they weren’t a variation of chicken. Foods like fish and vegetables don’t become taboo until later in life so start making them a regular part of the menu when your child is too young to know the difference.
Be an example
One time my little guy was eating tomatoes as a snack and an adult family member who was nearby said, “Ew, that’s disgusting!” He received a stern talking to. Obviously, we all have our likes and dislikes when it comes to food, but it is important that we don’t impart these prejudices to the little ones. Encourage kids to try something new—even if it isn’t something you enjoy.
We went out to eat on New Year’s Eve with another couple and ordered calamari for the table. Every now and then my friend would grab a little piece of fried squid from the plate and pop it into her toddler’s mouth—and he loved it. As children get older, they learn more and more about what it is they are actually eating, and that can be scary. They learn about animal sounds and how things grow from the earth even before preschool. Eating a creature or something that came from the ground can be repulsive to them. You know your child best, so think about what they need to know and what they don’t when giving full disclosure about what is being served.
Shauna Armitage is a parenting blogger, a freelance travel writer and the co-founder of Pure Wander Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CarpeCalamus