Feeding therapist shares ‘simplest switch’ to help engage picky eaters at mealtime

TikTok - picky eaters at mealtime tip from feeding therapist

If you are or ever have been a toddler parent, you know that mealtimes can be hard. All of a sudden, your baby that used to eat whatever you put in front of them won’t touch a single thing on their plate. Even though picky eating is usually a normal part of development in children from ages 2 to 4, it’s a challenging hurdle for caregivers. We want to ensure our kids are getting the nutrients they need, but how can we do that when they won’t branch out with new foods (or even eat the things they used to like)?

Cue Cassidy Anderson (@cassidyandkids), a feeding therapist who recently went viral after sharing a hack on TikTok she uses to help encourage children from babies to “big kids” to eat a variety of foods.

“The simplest switch you can make if your child is refusing or throwing their food! I swear by this trick for getting your toddler more engaged at mealtime,” she captioned the post. In the TikTok, the speech pathologist pointed out that “the number one mistake” she sees parents making while feeding young kids is putting the whole meal on their plate and expecting them to eat what’s in front of them, no exceptions.

“If your baby, toddler, or even big kid is refusing food…[do] not put everything you are offering them on their plates,” Anderson advises. “ What you’re going to do instead is put one thing on their plate and serve the rest of the things on the menu family style. This can be a fruit; this can be a vegetable; this can be a main; whatever you want, put it in a big bowl, serve it at the center of the table and your kid’s interest will [pique] right away.”

According to the toddler mom of two, this tip should “work on the very first try,” and here’s why: “Kids love control, even more so when it comes to their food, so setting yourself up for success by offering things family style will make them so much more interested in trying new things or just eating something they’ve eaten before, served a different way,” Anderson explains. “It is such a simple switch, but stop putting everything on your [kid’s] plate and let them choose from items in the middle.”

Of course, every child is different and it’s possible you try this with your kid and it doesn’t work. If you’re struggling with a picky eater, you can try something fun like a no-rules dinner (just prepare to get messy!) or something more practical like the “fading” technique, where you slowly add more and more of something (like sauce in pasta) until your kid accepts it. If nothing is working, rest assured that most kids outgrow picky eating in their early elementary school years. For now, your job is to offer your child a wide range of food options, and their job is to decide what they want to eat—and how much, which should hopefully help take some of the pressure off.