For 48 months, my daughter ate just about anything I made for her – Broccoli, asparagus, salmon, spinach, cabbage…anything. As a baby, the ladies in the church nursery even made a game of trying to guess what was in the lunch I sent with her each Sunday.
She disliked so few things that there were times when I wondered whether her taste buds worked properly!
But alas, our time has come. After four glorious years of parenting an adventuresome, healthy eater, she is finally showing signs of “normal” preschool behavior and has become a picky eater.
Giving In To Picky Eating
Over the past three months, I’ve seen more squinched up noses, heard more of the word “Yuuuuuk!!”, and tossed more uneaten food in the trash than I did in her first four years of life combined!
So what am I doing about it? Very little.
I recognize that there are a couple of things going in my sweet girl’s 4 year old world that assure me that this is a brief detour rather than a permanent exit ramp off of the path to nutrition and health:
1. Her tastebuds are changing
Babies are born with around 30,000 taste buds located all over their mouths. These gradually decrease in number until adulthood when only around 10,000 remain, and are mostly located on the tongue. Because of this, young children have more intense taste perception than adults, and are therefore more prone to perceive changes in the way food tastes as they grow.
Bottom line: I’m choosing to respect what is probably a genuine change in her taste preferences (with more to come), and to accept the challenge to introduce new healthy foods into our regular lineup.
2. She wants (and needs) autonomy
The preschool years are marked by a need for healthy autonomy. In fact, I love that about preschoolers in general, and about my girl in particular. She’s bright, creative, and determined. And she loves to be a part of whatever I’m doing – naturally, that has led her into the kitchen quite a bit. So if my precious doesn’t particularly like what’s on the dinner menu, and she wants to exercise some creative juices in dreaming up a “real” dinner recipe of her own, maybe I should relax and let her experiment from time to time. Plus, I’ve noticed that once she’s eaten her own meal, she’ll then sample parts of what I made as well.
Bottom line: I’m choosing to encourage my daughter’s efforts to create, enjoy, and serve foods to others rather than fuss about her not eating something I planned to serve.
Here’s one of her recent creations – could be worse, right?
Lose the Battle, Win the War
I may be giving in to a few of my daughter’s recent food preferences and desire for autonomy; but I am in no way raising the white flag on feeding my family wholesome, nourishing foods.
Instead, I’m learning to view picky eating guidelines as just that – guidelines. Reference points. Goals. At times, they’ll need to be adjusted a little to allow for the needs of a particular child to be met. Ultimately, only the Lord knows what they truly need at each stage of their little lives. We’re just trying to thoughtfully and prayerfully guide them through it all in a way that shows them more of Him than us.
I figure there are really only two possible outcomes of our current “make my own” phase, neither of which is bad:
1. She’ll get tired of making her own food and go back to just eating what’s being served; OR
2. She’ll continue to enjoy cooking, improve her skills and it will become a meaningful part of our relationship and her understanding of nurturing and serving others.
In my opinion, both of those would fall into the “win” category!
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
Do you have a picky eater? What challenges or successes have you had?
Did your own childhood experience with picky eating shape how you approach it now?