Working Around Picky Eaters

It’s no secret around here that we continue to struggle with Parker’s picky eater ways. It’s not that he doesn’t like a bunch of different types of foods, it’s just that getting him to try new things in the first place is like pulling teeth. Sometimes, I think he would rather we pull his teeth than make him take a single bite of ________ (fill in the blank with anything here).

So instead of having the same circular conversation (where everyone ends up frustrated and defeated before the meal even starts), I decided to try a new tactic. I thought that perhaps if he helped me make different foods and then had a chance to rate those options (and be rewarded for trying them), we might have better luck. I chose ‘pizza’ for our first night of experimentation since he’s already familiar with it and I wanted this first experience to be a positive one.

First, we made four different types of individual pizzas: cheese (the only type he would eat so far), pepperoni, pineapple and ham, and finally, tomato and basil. Each pizza was made from scratch and Parker helped with each step in the process.

Our pineapple and ham pizza, where I made Parker dance the hula before he took a bite.
The tomato and basil pizza – my personal favorite.

While the pizzas were cooking, we made a score card and placed a single chocolate next to it (as a reward for eating that slice of pizza). Before anyone blasts me on this – I realize that having chocolate as a reward is probably not the best system, but we have almost zero sugar in this house so Parker will jump at the chance for a little bit of dessert.

The ‘score card’ with pictures of the different types of pizzas and the chocolate he can earn by trying something new.

I put a slice of each type of pizza on his place and this was the look he gave me.

Mom, do I have to try it?

The first slice he grudging tried was the pepperoni. Low and behold…

He loved it! I think I’ll call the above look “shock and awed.” He couldn’t believe that he liked it! After the success of the pepperoni (which has now ousted cheese as his favorite), he wasn’t quite as hesitant to give the other two a go.  Even though he didn’t end up liking them, he gave a herculean effort and finished each of the slices. Here was his final assessment.

Parker’s score card: Two smiley faces and two gagging faces.

All in all, this experiment was a complete success! I’m floored that he tried them because without this companion ‘game,’ he wouldn’t have come within 10-feet of basil, I can assure you. I am so proud of him for playing along and I think we’re going to keep this as a Friday evening ritual. This week, I may make chicken, pork and shrimp fried rice to see which one he likes best (he’s never tried any of them).

Do you have any picky eater tricks you can pass along? I’d love to hear them!




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