Can you turn a fussy eater into a food lover?
This creative approach might just be the answer that anxious parents are desperately looking for
Growing up with two working parents meant spending the day with my rather strict maternal grandmother. Her idea of keeping me gainfully occupied was practicing my spellings or learning embroidery. But the one area Gran relaxed the rules a bit was food. Sure, we weren’t allowed to watch TV while eating— instead, we sat at the table, fully engaged and ‘thankful for the hands that prepared this meal’. But we were encouraged to get messy. I’d pull apart cauliflower florets and pretend to be Gulliver lost in Lilliput as I gobbled whole ‘trees’ in a single bite. Raspberry jelly— the preferred 4 pm snack — was moulded to look like a quivering rabbit, with freshly cut fruit adding bright pops of colour to the plate. And, we ate with our hands. Learning to excavate fish bones, crafting rice balls like mini sushi chefs and carving vegetables into different shapes that would — and I’ll challenge anyone who claims otherwise — improve their taste.
The result: kids who ate karela and khichdi without a fuss.
My grandmother was as traditional as they come, but her idea of encouraging play at mealtime was surprisingly intuitive yet modern. It’s what paediatric psychologist Amanda Abel believes is the secret sauce to dealing with fussy eaters. And lucky for you, she’ll teach you just how play can improve your kid’s nutrition in the first session of the LEGO® DUPLO Academy 2023.
An initiative by the LEGO® Group, the LEGO® DUPLO Academy will be a series of online workshops that will provide parents with valuable insights on the benefits of play for their toddler as well as actionable advice on how they can incorporate active and creative play into their everyday life.
“I know it sounds super messy and something we would tell our kids not to do, but increasing your child’s interaction with food improves their chances of actually eating that food,” says Abel. “There’s so much we can do outside of mealtimes to support more success with our child’s eating – storytelling mixed with creative play helps. For example, making a food train using LEGO® DUPLO bricks can be a great way to work on the skills needed for mealtimes – while being fun for kids at the same time.” The paediatric psychologist says that kids may need to be exposed to food up to 100 times before they will be comfortable eating it, so making it fun for them helps bridge that gap faster.
The first workshop, scheduled for 31st March will help parents work through challenges like inherent difficulties with feeding (sensory, oral motor, core stability etc), behavioural difficulties unrelated to food and fussy eating patterns. Abel will offer simple actionable tips to make mealtimes more relaxed, with a special focus on how encouraging creative play can improve their behaviour at the dinner table and in restaurants.
She also has helpful insights for parents who may not realise how their own behaviour might be creating negative associations around food for their kids.
We consider food to nourish not just the body, but also the soul. This LEGO® DUPLO Academy workshop might just be the play-based cathartic session you need to bond with your child and help them kick those tantrums to the curb.