Sophie Pickles

Early Years Child Development Specialist

As a qualified teacher, mum, parenting coach and all-round Early Years expert, Sophie has a wealth of practical, real life experience to share with parents.

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Dr. Stephanie Ooi

General Practitioner

As a mum of two and a registered GP, Stephanie has seen more than her fair share of little ones! She has lots of practical tips and professional know-how on hand to help parents.

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Laura Matthews

Nutritionist

Laura is our nutrition whizz – bringing her expert advice and experience from working with chefs, schools and nurseries to the Kiddylicious expert panel.

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Changes as they go to nursery

Laura:

There’s often a period of adjustment, when children start nursery. At nursery, there are so many meal occasions during the day and it took me a while to realise that when my son came home, he wouldn’t eat much because he was still full from all the food that he’d had during the day. You put pressure on yourself to expect them to eat a ‘proper’ dinner and they just don’t need it.

Sophie:

Parents often worry about what time they feed their kids when they get home from nursery, because the nursery often gives them another meal at around 4:30, so parents don’t know whether to give them an extra meal when they get home. In that case, it is about reading your child. Do they seem hungry? If they do, it’s OK to give them something else when you get home. We often have a ‘picky’ tea on days when they have been at nursery – you know, a bit of cheese, grapes and stuff like that, because he’s had a full cooked meal at lunchtime.

Stephanie:

It’s a nice opportunity to introduce them to the kind of food the whole family is eating. That’s what we’ve been doing, as my daughter will come home and you just never know what she’ll want. Instead of preparing something specially for her, we’ll sit down and say: “this is what we’re having. If you want some, help yourself.” Sometimes she will and sometimes she’ll just have a tiny bit.

Sophie:

You also need to discuss any fussy behaviour with school or nursery, because it might be eye opening – they may eat quite normally at nursery. What may be different about that environment versus home is that they under less pressure, because the staff have 15 children to feed, so they’re not being watched.

Stephanie:

Absolutely! Kids often eat so well at nursery because they’re all sitting around with their friends and if they are sitting with friends on a playdate, that can also encourage them to eat because they’re doing it in a different setting.

Sophie:

They look so cute when you go to a cafe and they’re all sitting in a row in their highchairs, chatting to each other! That’s a great time to introduce them to new foods and flavours, as they might be interested in trying something the other child is having. In that environment it’s okay to share food and let them try some of their friends’ food.

If fussy eating becomes a problem

Laura:

It’s worth clarifying the difference between typical fussy eating and really extreme picky eating. For me, this would be something like a child getting really physically upset about foods being put onto their plate, or different foods touching each other and perhaps only accepting no more than 10 foods.

Stephanie:

Sometimes they have a physical reaction to foods especially if they’ve got a restricted list of things they will eat. Some kids will almost gag at a new food.

Laura:

Extreme pickiness might be related to an incident such as an illness or a choking incident, which perhaps wasn’t dealt with at the time. In those circumstances, perhaps after a choking incident, try to offer them a favourite food.

You also need to be aware of the point when you think fussiness might have become a behavioural issue. Or a health issue. I think primarily if you can see that they are gaining weight, they should be fine. Seek help from your GP if they are only eating a very limited range of foods or are dramatically losing weight.

Sophie:

If they’re having what you might call a ‘meltdown’ every mealtime, I would personally recommend a parent keep a food diary, because then you can recognise patterns that led to this. Were you serving food of a particular texture, because texture can be a big thing for some children. You may suddenly realise it’s a trigger for them. From a developmental point of view, if your child is still expressing extreme behaviours around food at four or five years old, that’s the time that you’d think there might be something more to it. Obviously, it depends on individual children and circumstances.

Laura:

You can also try foods in different formats if there are things they seem resistant to. For example, avocado is a kind of slippery, slightly slimy texture, so perhaps try it mashed or mixed with fish or similar.

Sophie:

I would be hesitant to suggest to parents that there was developmental delay, or a disorder with their child when actually it’s just a natural wariness of new textures and flavours. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help – you are not failing as a parent if you ask for advice. It’s okay to reach out to a nutritionist or a doctor and ask them questions – they’re not going to judge you as a parent.

Stephanie:

I think that a lot of people worry that they’re wasting a doctor’s time especially if it’s not strictly medical problem but do have a chat with your GP or your health visitor. They talk to parents about this all the time and they can be a really helpful source of information. And speak to your friends who’ve got children. As a parent, you’re not the first person to have worried about that this, so, when you share it with other people, you will often find that they have been through it as well.

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