How to entertain picky eaters | Take their mind off food

Picky eaters are a parent’s worst nightmare.

They seem to have the ability to leave you frustrated and feeling like they don’t care about what you’re serving them for dinner.

If you’ve ever gone head-to-head with a finicky child, dinner probably feels like a war zone that’s better to avoid.

But, there is an effective way of getting your picky eater back on track: distraction!

Here are some fun activities that will help get their mind off food so that they can start eating again.

Make a list of their favorite foods

You can start by making a list of foods that they eat and see where there are gaps in their diet. Let them help you with the list by asking them to draw their favorite meals. I always find out what’s in season and use these for meals. Food is always better when in season.

You could also find a local pick your own farm and plan a little trip. Seeing food that’s in season and then being able to pick it will encourage your child to engage with the idea of eating their greens.

Autumn is a great time for apples, pears, squash, pumpkin pie filling which can all be used to entice them into trying healthier items.

Ask them to help you in the kitchen

They might not be able to help much but even handing them an apple and asking them to place it in a bowl can be a great way for them to get involved.

They’ll learn about how the fruit is grown, what’s inside, and that they’re actually helping with the preparation of their meal. The more a toddler touches food and handles raw vegetables, the more likely they won’t see it as a threat.

Show them something new

This should be new food to try, not something they’ve already had in a different form. Pick up anything you know your child hasn’t previously tried and let them touch, smell and taste it.

The new texture, color, and smells will be exciting, and they’ll be more likely to try it.

Give them a toy to play with

Encourage your toddler to play with a toy when they’re eating. This will help take their mind off the food and assist in digestion by giving them something else to focus on.

Some toys can be used at mealtimes such as puzzles or blocks so your child has something to do while they eat!

Plan activities for them to do while they’re eating

In addition to giving them a toy, you can give your child something else to do while they’re eating. Plan activities for when they are at the table – have some cards with different shapes and colors; play music in the background so it’s fun for them!

This will keep their attention away from the food on their plate which should hopefully help them eat more!

Get creative

Dont just serve them a plate of food; get creative with how you serve it so that your child is more likely to try it. For example, if your toddler doesn’t enjoy vegetables, mix them through their mashed potato or pasta sauce and see if they’ll eat it.

Serve the food in creative ways, put it on skewers, in muffin tins, or ice cube trays.

Put their pudding in front of them at the same time as their mains so they can pick through their meal and choose which they would like to eat.

You might also want to distract them while they are eating by asking them what color the food is, or how many shapes there are on different cards.

Serve finger foods

Older toddlers who are a little more adventurous with their food should be given finger foods. This will allow them to explore the taste and texture of different types of food while they eat it, which could also encourage pickier children to try new things.

They can have as much or as little as they want and this way you don’t need to feed them which can lead to one frustrated parent!

Some of my daughter’s favorite finger foods are:

  • Cucumber slices
  • Carrot batons
  • Sweet potato fries
  • Cheese sticks
  • Sliced apples

FAQ on picky eaters

Is Picky Eating a phase?

Parents often wonder if picky eating is a phase. The answer to this question is it can be, but it’s not necessarily the case. It could just be that he or she has never tried those foods before so they don’t know what to expect and may think they taste bad because of their unfamiliarity with them.

Is Picky Eating a sign of ADHD?

Picky eating may be a sign of ADHD in some cases, but the problem isn’t exclusive to children with ADHD. It can also be because they’re just too busy to eat when there are so many other things appealing to them around.

If you are concerned about picky your picky eater having ADHD, you should consult your pediatrician. The best thing for parents and caregivers is to keep offering different foods at regular intervals throughout the day and change what food you offer each day.

What causes someone to be a picky eater?

There are many reasons why someone would be a picky eater. Some children just have less of an appetite, they may find it difficult to eat with others around them, and then there are the ones who actually don’t like certain foods so won’t try anything new.

One of the most common reasons for being a picky eater is being overly distracted. There are so many things to see and do, it can be difficult for children to focus when there is food in front of them.

Those with this problem mustn’t feel like they’re being punished because they didn’t eat something; you need to offer healthy foods.

Will a picky eater starve?

It’s important not to worry about picky eaters who are refusing food. They’re probably just too distracted and if you keep offering healthy foods over the next few weeks and months, they will eventually try them! You’ll find that your child will start to eat more and better foods if you focus on providing them with a variety of healthy options.

It can be hard for children who are distracted by everything going on around them, or the food in front of them, so it’s important not to worry about picky eaters who refuse certain foods.

Should you force a picky eater to eat?

The best way to deal with picky eaters is not by forcing them to eat, but rather by making sure they’re offered healthy alternatives. If you’ve tried everything and your child still refuses certain foods, then it may be time for a doctor’s appointment. A nutritionist can also provide advice that will encourage your child to try new food.

What is the best diet for picky eaters?

A child’s diet should be tailored to their needs, but generally picky eaters need a well-balanced meal with plenty of protein, carbs, and other nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to offer one new food every week so that your child will become more confident in what they’re eating.

Do picky eaters have an eating disorder?

A “picky eater” in most cases is just a finicky child. Eating disorders are characterized by obsessive thoughts about food and what you’re allowed to eat, while the majority of people who say they have a “picky eater” just have children that don’t like different types of foods or textures. If you are worried about your child, seek medical advice from a pediatrician.


Our brains are wired to want what they can’t have. The more you try to restrict unhealthy foods, the more your toddler will crave them. Instead of using a punishment-based approach, provide plenty of healthy food options and make sure that there is always one or two on hand for when their interest wanes in something else. This way, they won’t be tempted by sweets or other less nutritious snacks because they know they have something of their own to eat.

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How to entertain picky eaters | Take their mind off food

How to entertain picky eaters | Take their mind off food