Stocking Fillers for Fussy Eaters

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How’s the Christmas shopping going? Looking for last minute inspiration for your fussy little foodies? I may just be able to help.

So much of my work is with parents who are worried or frustrated with their children’s eating. And so much of my advice is around how to help make mealtimes enjoyable and relaxed. Providing they are healthy (and of course hungry) once eating becomes a positive thing to do, without pressure or stress, children are more likely to want to eat or to experiment with new foods.

Here is a hand-picked selection of gift ideas perfect for making food fun for little ones this Christmas (click images for where to buy).

1. Chopsticks

Not just for sushi…There are lots of beginner chopsticks available which can not only help develop hand eye co-ordination, but also encourage eating to be a fun and challenging activity. There are so many to choose from but I think these are cute. Thanks to Nicole from the fabulous Kids’ Kitchen for this great idea!

2. Divider Plates

Sometimes children can be put off eating meals if foods are touching each other. This is perfectly normal and all part of the fussy eating ‘phase.’ Go with it and overcome this hurdle by using plates with separate sections.

 
 

I came across these cute animal plates from Bamboo Bamboo (top left) via the Feeding Harry page on Instagram – not only are they made from eco-friendly material, but they also come with a suction bottom which can be removed when your child no longer needs it.

I also love these fun ranges from Skip Hop and Sophie Allport.

3. ‘Dinner Winner’ Tray

Several of my clients have sworn by the Dinner Winner tray. Like the segmented plates above, it helps keep foods separate but also turns the mealtime into a fun game of getting to the prize compartment at the end. I’d recommend something like a sticker for the reward here - preferably not chocolate or sweet treats (but we’ll talk about food rewards another time…)

My only reservation is that it could feel quite pressurising for a child to feel like they have to get to the end. This is the pirate version, but there are others to choose from.

4. Fred Food Face

This Food Face fun plate is great for encouraging children to interact with their food, play with it and rearrange it to make funny faces. Touching food, like smelling or licking it, are all important stages towards helping fussy eaters feel familiar and trusting of new or refused foods.

 
 

5. Food picks

I discovered the power of the cocktail stick by accident with my kids! I now offer them a fruit fork or fondue sticks whenever they have fruit salad, but this concept could work just as well for other foods - I’m thinking peas, sweetcorn, pieces of chicken or fish, pasta… Obviously I don’t recommend using cocktail or fondue sticks for little ones (mine are a bit older now) but these Bento Food Picks are just perfect for toddlers.

6. Fun Cutlery

A quick browse on the web will give you so much choice here. But personally I like the look of this ergonomic set. I first heard about the Nanas Manners cutlery when my friend and fellow Registered Nutritionist Catherine Lippe posted Instagram stories of her little ones using it. Targeted at 4 to 9 year olds, these sets are ergonomically designed making independent eating not only easy but enjoyable too.

7. Colourful Placemats

How about a personalised placemat to make being at the table fun for your child? You can use the images, numbers, or whatever the theme is to initiate table-talk and take the focus off the actual food. For example, ask ‘Which is your favourite animal?’ or ‘Look at what these monkeys are doing!’ Any conversation that diverts focus away from the food or eating can take the pressure off and be helpful for creating a enjoyable stress-free mealtime.

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8. Little Chef Accessories

Nicole says anything to get children more involved in cooking is helpful for fussy eaters. This personalised apron, chef’s hat or wooden spoon from Not On The High Street can all help to bring out the little chef in your child!

 
 

9. Cookie Cutters

Although requiring a little time and patience, making fun shapes from foods like bread or fruit can be a huge motivator for fussy eaters. I love these smiley face cutters from Lakeland which, going by the reviews, are good for making all sorts of fun sandwiches!

10. Food Games & Activities

Encouraging fussy eaters to feel comfortable about new foods doesn’t have to happen just at the table or in the kitchen. Any game or activity that involves looking at or talking about different foods can be helpful. Here are a few of my favourites:

 
 

11. Books

There are so many books available but I Will Not Ever Eat A Tomato is one that my kids enjoyed listening to when they were younger. Charlie gets his younger sister to try various foods by giving them fun made-up names, for example carrots are ‘orange twiglets from Jupiter,’ peas are ‘green drops from Greenland’ and mashed potato is ‘cloud fluff.’

12. Messy Play Activities

Sometimes fussy eaters don’t feel comfortable touching food or getting messy in general. Encouraging messy play can have a knock-on positive effect at the table, so this Christmas why not get them into fingerpainting, playdough, playfoam or slime (just don’t be too quick to clean them up!)

 
 

13. Cooking Class Gift Voucher

How about something for the older ones? Sam from Happy Eaters offers gift vouchers for her runs fantastic cooking classes aimed at children aged 6+ and teenagers. Getting kids involved in the kitchen - at any age - can help them feel relaxed about eating and more likely to want to try new foods.

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Can you recommend any other fun gift ideas for fussy eaters?

If you or anyone you know is feeling fed up with miserable mealtimes, please get in touch for one-to-one support or details about my new 5-week Teeny Tummies Programme for parents of fussy eaters: nutrition@juliawolman.co.uk

NB. I have not been paid to promote any of the items listed above. I have chosen them because in my opinion they are all great products! Please be sure to check that items are age appropriate before you buy.