How to Get a Child to Eat When They Refuse: Top Tips and Strategies

child eating watermellon

Is your child a picky eater?

Studies have shown that about 20% of kids fall into this category. They’ll often refuse to eat a meal when it’s put down in front of them if it’s not something that they know they like.

The good news is that the vast majority of kids grow out of being picky about what they eat. But that won’t stop parents from becoming frustrated when they’re going through this stage in their child’s life.

Would you like to learn how to get a child to eat when they refuse to do it? There are tips and strategies that you can put to good use in order to convince your child to chow down on almost anything that you serve.

Here are some things that you should try the next time your child refuses to eat for you.

Set a Good Example for Your Child by Eating Different Foods Yourself

Are you a picky eater yourself? If so, you might be setting a terrible example for your child every time that you sit down at the dinner table.

Young children watch every single move that their parents make. They often emulate their parents and will say and do things that they do.

Therefore, you could be making your child even pickier than they already are if you routinely refuse to eat things that are served at dinner. You could also show them that it’s OK to be picky by refusing to try foods that are new.

Go out of your way to eat everything that’s served during dinner, even if you don’t love it all. This will set the right example for your child and show them that they should be open to eating whatever is served to them, too.

Turn Testing New Foods Into a Game for Your Whole Family

If you know that you’re going to be eating something for dinner that your child might not like, get out ahead of yourself in an effort to prevent them from being picky. Turn dinner into a fun game that you and your family take part in once it’s served.

Once everything is out, go around the table like you’re on a Food Network show and test out the food. Then, give a quick review as to what you like or don’t like about a specific dish.

By doing this, you will, at the very least, get your child to try what’s for dinner. They’ll be more likely to eat more of it if they take a bite and realize that they like it.

You should, of course, make sure that your review is as positive as it can be, even if you don’t like a particular food. This will prevent your child from saying that they don’t like a certain food before they’ve even tasted it.

Talk to Your Child About Why They Dislike Certain Foods

When your picky eater tells you that they don’t like something that’s been served to them, your first instinct might be to tell them to just eat it. After a long day, one of the last things you feel like doing is arguing with your child over the food that you worked hard to put on the table.

But the problem is that this is not going to yield any real results. Your child is going to end up sulking at the dinner table and bringing down the mood of everyone else.

Rather than going with this approach, try talking to your child every so often about why they don’t like the food in front of them. You might get a better understanding as to why your child won’t eat for you.

You might also find some slight tweaks that you can make to your recipes to make your dishes more appealing to your child. By making something a little less spicy or a little crispier, you can entice a picky child to eat your food the next time you make it.

Avoid Serving the Same Foods Over and Over Again

It’s easy for parents to put themselves on auto-pilot when it’s time to make dinner. Some parents get into the habit of making the same four or five dishes over and over (and over!) again.

This might be more convenient for you. But it’s not going to develop your child’s tastebuds or motivate them to try new foods. They’re going to be so used to eating your regular dishes that those dishes will be the only things they’ll eat.

Experiment with new foods all the time and keep a running list of the foods that your child responds positively to. This will give you an opportunity to mix and match foods that will appeal to your child every night.

Read more about how this strategy works for many parents when it comes to their picky eaters.

Bring Your Child Into the Kitchen to “Cook” With You

If you just can’t seem to figure out how to get a child to eat when they refuse to do it, it’s time to take extreme measures.

Call your child into the kitchen the next time you’re making something new and let them “cook” with you. Allow them to mix together the ingredients for a meal and taste-test things along the way.

When your child plays an active role in preparing dinner, they’ll be more inclined to eat it. They’ll also see how hard you work to make dinner every night over time and be more grateful for the meals that you make.

Knowing How to Get a Child to Eat When They Refuse Can Be Challenging

As a parent, you’re going to face a million and one challenges over the first 18 years of your child’s life. From teaching your child to practice politeness to getting your child to ignore peer pressure, it’ll feel like one tall task after another.

But learning how to get a child to eat when they refuse to do it might just be one of the biggest challenges you ever face. It can be so demoralizing going to great lengths to cook a meal—only to have your child tell you they don’t want to eat it.

Use the tips and strategies found here to make this problem a thing of the past. You’ll have a much easier time convincing a child to eat when you put them to the test.

Check out our blog for more tips on improving your parenting skills.