Your kids are not going to like everything you make for dinner (as much as I would like to believe otherwise), but "I don't like it" doesn't have to be an acceptable reason that your little ones don't eat the meal that you've lovingly prepared.
Being selective about food choice is actually a normal part of a child's development. They are creatures of habit, have developing tastebuds - which are differentially sensitive to flavors than mature tastebuds are - and are pre-wired to avoid certain flavors, like bitter vegetables.
Because of this, introducing new foods can be a challenge. But it's one that you can tackle, head-on! Especially with older children who are able to communicate verbally. Here are three simple and easy strategies you can use to tackle picky eating in older kids.
1. Involve Kids in Meal Planning: Here's a very simple idea that will help build your kids' confidence on many levels: Ask your kids what they want to eat for dinner. Yes, sometimes this means you might have to have macaroni and cheese for dinner, but it can be homemade Mac & Cheese, include novel ingredients, or be served alongside a bright leafy salad. (Or, it can just be Mac & Cheese from a box because that's what your child loves and it shows you value their opinion.) Letting your kids take part in meal planning communicates to them that their opinion matters, and who doesn't want to do that?
2. Ask Their Opinion: At mealtime, ask your kids what they think of dinner. Ask them what they like, or don't like, about the meal and, importantly, ask them what they would do differently next time. You might get some crazy ideas that you won't actually implement, but it gets your kids thinking about food and flavors and that kind of creativity is a great foundation for learning to love food.
3. Have Them Describe What They're Tasting: Last week we provided a list of terms you can use to describe everything from the taste to texture to smell of foods. The next time your child tells you they don't like something ask them to use two words to tell you why. (Be sure to ask them when they do like a food too!)
"I don't like it," doesn't have to be the end of mealtime. Instead it can be the beginning of a deeper and more rich conversation about food.