Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sibling harmony

If you have more than one child, chances are you have some days when you feel more like a referee than a parent. I know I do - my twin boys are truly the best of friends, but they are still siblings! So, they fight, wrestle, and scream at each other several times every day. The latest major tussle? I got a text from my husband, who was home with the kids while I was at work, which said: "A gave F a bloody nose. He punched him in the nose for saying he was a good guy when A wanted him to be a bad guy." Preschool problems are no joke.

In any case, I have done a lot of research - for my own family as well as for the families I work with - on how to increase sibling harmony (and parental sanity). Hopefully some of these work for you!

  • First and foremost, recognize that fights between siblings are normal! Your kids are learning how to solve conflicts, understand friendships and social situations, and generally be members of society. If you expect 100% harmony all the time, you are in for major disappointment! 
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. Let your children settle small disagreements by themselves. Not only do you not have time for every little argument, but letting them settle things on their own teaches them valuable life lessons - problem solving, social skills, and independence to name a few. 
  • Teach them how to solve problems. During an argument is NOT the time to do this. Talk to your kids after the fact, when everyone is calm again. You can use puppets or dolls to illustrate your point if your kids are younger. For instance, we talked with our son about the above example: "A, you punched F when you were mad. This really hurt him and made him bleed. What else could you have done instead of hitting?" We then came up with several options, such as talking to his brother, walking away, counting to ten, taking deep breaths, and hitting a pillow.
  • Reward them for playing nicely.  Set up a simple sticker chart for playing nicely with siblings. A complete sticker chart can then be used to get a bigger reward, such as a small toy, a new book, or a trip to a favorite playground. It is up to you to "catch them being good," and to provide praise and stickers for positive behavior. In the beginning, you want to be sure to give lots of praise so they make the connection between positive behavior and good things. Make sure your praise is really specific, such as "Tommy, I really like how you are sharing your Legos with your sister!" or "Great job playing pretend with Alex!" or "You're really working together to build that tower!"
  • Use natural and logical consequences. For example, if your children are fighting over which television program to watch, turn off the TV until they can come to an agreement. If they fight over a toy, put away the toy until they can agree to share. If one child intentionally breaks something belonging to the other child, they should be held to fixing or replacing it. Of course, for aggressive behavior (i.e., hitting, biting, kicking, etc), use time out as a chance to be removed from the situation and cool down.
  • Build empathy. Encourage your child to do things to help his/her siblings. For instance, an older child might help you pack the diaper bag or "babysit" an infant while you cook dinner (i.e., gently push a swing, bounce a bouncy seat, or "read" a book).  When one child gets himself a snack or a drink, encourage him to also get one for his sibling. While drawing pictures, encourage your child to draw a picture for her younger brother, maybe using his favorite color. 

Remember that fighting is a normal and necessary part of sibling relationships...and maybe get yourself a whistle!

Monday, June 9, 2014


If you have ever had a 2-year-old, you have heard the phrase, "I do it!" Kids have an innate desire to be independent. And even though it may (ok, it definitely will) mean that you have to wait a little longer to get out the door in the morning, or clean up a few more messes, it is so important for us to allow our kids to do as much as they can by themselves. Not only does it teach them valuable life skills (including problem solving), but it means that you as the parent can have one more job off of your plate. So, once you know your child can do something for him/herself, let them do it!  It will take extra time at first, but practice makes perfect. Soon you will be relaxing on the couch with a cold drink while the kids take care of themselves...(Hey, a mama can dream, right?)

So how do you know when your kids are ready for independence? All kids are different, but here are some general guidelines:

Infants (0-1)
Yes, infants! Allow your babe to do as much as she can. When she is able to reach for and grab a toy, don't just automatically pick it up for her - let her try to reach for it. When she starts to try to finger-feed, let her! When she grabs for the bottle or sippy cup, let her hold it! When you really think about all the things an infant learns to do in the first year of life, it is quite amazing - so let her learn and do!

Toddlers (1-2)
This is generally the time when kids most want to be independent, particularly if they have older siblings to imitate. So, just go with it! If she wants to walk on her own, let her. Encourage her to fetch her own clean diaper and wipes for changing time. Encourage the exploration and use of utensils while eating, and start introducing a small open cup (I suggest a Dixie cup or even a shot glass to minimize the inevitable mess). She is probably helping with undressing and dressing (by holding out her arms and legs for you), but start showing her how to push down her own pants, and later how to pull them back up. You can place your hands over her hands to show her how. If she's interested in the potty, go with it (but don't force it if she's not ready).

Preschoolers (3-5)
Your child's independent skills develop exponentially in this stage! In the third year of life, she will be ready to feed and dress/undress herself. (Note: In some cultures, the parents continue to do these things for their children through this stage - do what is best for your family.) As for the potty, most kids become potty trained around age 3, but if your child is not ready, don't force it. If she is potty trained, allow her to do as much of the process as possible - pushing down her pants, sitting herself on the potty, getting off the potty, pulling her pants back up, and washing her hands. A small stool like this or this will make things easier!  You will probably still have to help with wiping for quite awhile (most parents say even their kindergarteners do not wipe well)! Encourage your 3-year old to start putting away some of her toys after playtime, putting her dirty clothes in the hamper, and putting her shoes in a basket - just don't expect a spotless room!

Your 4- and 5-year-old will add simple household chores to her repertoire, like putting away most of her toys, feeding the pets (with guidance), spraying/wiping tables (with water or kid-safe cleaner), and helping to set the table (unbreakables!). She can also be encouraged to brush her teeth (you may have to help with squeezing the toothpaste if your kids are like mine and make a huge mess; and you should also finish the job for her to ensure clean, sparkly teeth), brush her hair, and wash herself in the shower/bath (with your supervision). Encourage her to get her own drink and snacks.

School-age children (6+)
Just keep adding on in this stage! Household chores, helping to care for younger siblings, making small meals, caring for small cuts, ordering at a restaurant, making small purchases, saving money, etc. If your child is capable of doing things for herself, and of helping you around the house, encourage that!

Encouraging independence takes a bit of effort from you in the beginning, but it pays off (in your time and sanity) in the end!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Divorce with kids

The current divorce rate in the US is 50% - in fact, 2,400 divorces occur every day!* While couples with children are less likely to get divorced than couples without children, thousands of parents do choose to get divorced every day. Since this issue affects each of us in some way (chances are, all of my readers have in some way been affected by divorce - either you are divorced yourself, your parents are divorced, or your siblings or friends are divorced), I thought it would make sense to devote a post to divorce. However, while I am a child of divorce, I am not personally divorced. So I interviewed my amazing sister who is divorced, and is a wonderful single mom to two awesome kids - a 12-year-old boy and an almost 10-year-old girl.  

Q: Tell us about you and your family:
A: I am a divorced single mother of two children - a daughter who is almost 10, and a son who just turned 12.

Q: How long were you married, and how long have you been divorced?
A: I met my ex in 2003, and we were married in 2006. We were married for three years, separated in 2009, and our divorce was official in 2013.

Q: Tell us about your current relationship with your ex:
A: We try to remain civil to each other. We only talk when it is referring to the kids, but we make a conscious effort to be polite to each other.

Q: What is your custody arrangement? How do you think it works for your family?
A: We have a true joint custody arrangement. We live close enough to each other that this works well. We both have our children for two set days per week and we rotate every other weekend. I think that it is fair for our situation, because it is completely 50\50. We live only 2 streets away, and the kids can attend the same school and keep the same friends. Also, they can walk to the other parent's house anytime if they want to, as long as they walk together. They both walk to their dad's house every morning before school because I have to be at work earlier than my ex.

Q: How old were your kids when you got divorced?
A: At the time of our initial separation, our children were 5 and 7; they were 9 and 11 when we were legally divorced.

Q: How did your kids handle the divorce? Did you see any behavioral or emotional issues? If so, how did you handle them?
A: It is difficult for any child to understand. We decided to offer counseling services and lots of support to help guide our children through. We also used artistic and sports team outlets. We did have some difficulties and I believe we will face more issues as time goes on. Our biggest issue has been the confusion and hurt that our kids experienced from the adults speaking badly about each other. My daughter even threatened to run away once because she was so sick of hearing bad things about me. My ex and I have made a very mindful decision to stop any bad talk about the other parent, and I really try to stick to that. I let my kids vent if they need to, but I don't add anything to the discussion. I don't think that happens consistently at the other house though, so the issues continue.

Q: How do the kids handle things now?
A: Every day is different. However, I believe they are handling things much better now.

Q: Did you read any specific books or see a professional regarding how to handle divorce with kids?
A: I've read many books/blogs about divorce, single-parenting, starting over, and dating - snippets of this and that. It is helpful to get an outside opinion; however, because every circumstance is different, you have to follow your own path eventually. This book has been helpful, and I do read it every once in awhile as issues crop up.

Q: What is your support system? 
A: My support system consists of family and friends.

Q: What advice would you give parents going through a divorce?
A: Breathe! This is going to be difficult at times. It will not be perfect. It will not be a complete disaster. Find a good support system. Find a good outlet to keep sane. Personally, I enjoy exercise, playing music, cleaning, and perhaps a nice glass of wine to keep my head on straight. Focus on your love of your children. Divorce is difficult enough without children involved. Remember to not lose sight of being a loving parent, first and foremost. Guide your children, and let your kids be kids. Be mindful of the fact that they are impressionable and don't need to be part of the divorce.


Monday, May 12, 2014


Nothing can make mom or dad go insane faster than a lack of sleep. Unfortunately for parents (and kids!) sleep issues can continue for years, even after reaching the highly sought after "My baby is sleeping through the night!" stage. Sleep is so important for our health and happiness (and sanity) as parents, and it is even more important for little ones who need adequate sleep to grow and thrive (not to mention to be less likely to drive us insane). I have done a lot of research on sleep issues and strategies to try - you're too tired to do research, right?! So, read on, and happy sleeping!

1) Bedtime resistance (e.g., "I'm not tired!" "I don't want to go to bed!")
  • Create a bedtime routine, and stick to it as much as possible. I recommend beginning a predictable routine as early as possible (i.e., infancy) so that you have fewer struggles as your children get older. For older children, creating a visual chart outlining the routine may be helpful. For instance, your routine might be Dinner, Bath, Brush Teeth, Put on Pajamas, Read a Story, Go to Bed. Next to each item, you can put a picture to illustrate the step (such as clipart or an actual photo of your children completing the activity). 
  • If your child still says he can't sleep, allow him to look at a book quietly in bed. If you notice that he is awake long after bedtime, look at his daily schedule to determine if his nap is too long or if there is a more appropriate bedtime.
  • If you know your bedtime is appropriate, and you stuck to your routine, ignore any further protests. You don't want to accidentally give your child a reason to continue this behavior - getting your attention! So, be firm and consistent...and boring!
2) Bedtime avoidance (e.g., "I just need one more drink of water!" "I need to go potty again!")
  • Requests for water - allow one drink before getting into bed, and make it clear that it is the last drink. Ignore any requests after that.
  • Requests for the potty - Children should feel free to get up during the night to use the potty if they need to, but you don't want to encourage bedtime avoidance. So, be sure your child uses the potty right before getting into bed. If he needs to go later, allow him to go on his own (without your attention). 
3) Gets out of bed (at bedtime, or throughout the night)
  • Be quiet - there is no need for a big discussion. Just lead him back to bed, saying nothing or only, "It's time for bed now."
  • Be boring - don't give any extra attention right now. 
  • Be consistent - follow these steps every time, and you will see a decrease in your child getting out of bed.
  • When your child stays in his bed all night long, give lots of praise in the morning!
4) Scared of the dark

  • Reassure your child that he is safe. Be sure to have a night light in your child's room. You can even choose to let him help you pick it out at the store. If you don't have a night light, you can leave the bedroom door open and the hallway light on.
  • Try to make the dark a more positive thing for your child. Get some glow in the dark things (like those star stickers that go on the ceiling), or explore with a flashlight.
  • If he is still scared, you can linger in the doorway until he falls asleep, or turn on more lights. Gradually fade these supports over the next few nights until your child falls asleep by himself with a night light.
5) Bad dreams
  • In the middle of the night, all you can do is try to make your child safe and comfortable again. For some kids, they might need to sleep in your room; for some, they might just need a hug. Try not to talk too much about the dream at this point so they can move on and go back to sleep. Talk about only positive things.
  • Eliminate any "scary" TV shows or movies if you are seeing more and more bad dreams (especially before bedtime). Remember that even kids' movies can be scary to young children! My kids loved watching "How to Train Your Dragon" but they kept waking up from bad dreams about scary dragons, so we put that movie on hiatus. 
  • Before saying good night, talk to your child about what he wants to dream about that night. Make sure to focus on positive, light things!
6) Wakes too early
  • For younger children (still in a crib), allow them to entertain themselves in their crib if possible. You may place some books or quiet toys in the crib the night before. For younger children who climb out of the crib or get out of bed, just quietly lead them back to bed (again, being quiet, boring, and consistent). 
  • For older children, lead them back to bed as well. You can also try a toddler alarm clock (we had this one) or even a regular alarm clock to provide some structure on when it's OK to wake up. 
  • Gives lots of praise (or even stickers) in the morning if your child stays in bed until an appropriate time!
  • If your child continues to wake too early, make sure your bedtime is appropriate.
Things to remember:
  • Be prepared for sleep issues to re-occur when your child is sick, overtired, going through a growth spurt, teething, or pretty much at any time! Just be consistent, and you will get through it!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Transition to a bed

Most likely, you have either dreaded or looked forward to this day - it's time to get rid of the crib, and move into a big kid bed! Parents choose to transition their children to a bed at different ages and for different reasons - maybe your neighbor moved her daughter to a bed at 18 months because she needed the crib for a new sibling, but your sister waited until age 3 because there was never really a reason to switch. In our family, we transitioned our twins at 15 months because they were climbing out of the crib, and it just made sense for us. There is no "right" age to transition to a bed - in fact, many cultures do not use cribs (or beds for that matter). However, regardless of your child's age, if you have decided to make the transition, here are some ways to prepare:

  • Make a decision and stick to it. Once you have decided to switch to a bed, trust in your decision and don't change your mind! Switching and then switching back is too much change for little kids.
  • Prepare your child. This is the time to talk about how beds are cool! Read some books (this one and this one are both good), visit older cousins or friends with big kid beds, and maybe even pick out some cool new bedding items with your child.
  • Don't change everything! It's OK to pick out some new bedding, but keep some things consistent. Try to put the new bed in the same place as the crib, keep some items from the crib (such as a blanket), and stick to your bedtime routine. Also, avoid making this transition during other times of change, such as while potty training, moving, or welcoming a new sibling.
  • Safety first. If your child is still a young toddler, protect him from rolling out of the bed. You can use bed rails if you have them, but a few rolled up towels, pillows, or a swim noodle placed under the edge of the bed sheet works just as well (and is a lot cheaper). If you want something a little taller, we used this Bed Bug Bumper with our toddler beds.
  • Bedtime rules. Talk to your child about the rules for the new bed. For instance, "Beds are for sleeping, not for jumping" and "We stay in our bed all night."
Now that you have prepared, it's time for your child's first night in the new bed! Unfortunately, you may not get a lot of sleep tonight (or tomorrow night...), depending on how well your child adjusts to the new sleeping arrangement. Just try to remember that you are basically teaching him a new skill - how to fall asleep and stay asleep in a bed. Although it doesn't seem like a big deal to us as adults (I mean, we sleep in a bed every night!), it can be a scary change for a toddler. All of a sudden, little Joey is higher off the ground, in a bigger bed, with no sides to protect him. On the flip side, some kids see it as a new found freedom to get up and play all night. So, expect the first few nights to be a bit of a challenge. Here are some strategies that may help:

Night 1:
  • Sleep on the floor. At least for the first night, one parent may want to plan to sleep on the floor next to the new bed. This is both for comfort and to correct any unwanted bedtime behaviors (such as jumping on the bed, getting out of bed to play, etc). 
  • Be boring. Make it clear that it is time for sleep, and not for talking, playing, etc. If your child gets out of bed, simply put him back. Be silent, be boring, be consistent. You don't want to give any attention (even negative attention like reprimanding) for these behaviors because you may inadvertently reinforce them.
  • Praise. In the morning, praise your child for sleeping in his big kid bed! (Even if he didn't sleep all night, find something positive to praise!)
Night 2:
  • Sit next to the bed. If your child slept through most of the previous night, you should be able to just sit next to his bed until he falls asleep, and then sleep in your own bed again. (If not, no big deal, just sleep on the floor again and move to this step when your child is ready.) For this night, you may need to hold his hand, but just your presence might be comforting enough. (This is a good time to catch up on a book, email, a quiet game, etc.)
  • Again, be boring. Give no attention for negative behaviors! If you are sleeping in your bed again, and your child comes to your bed, just silently bring him back to bed. You may need to set up shop in his room again if he continues to get up. It is still a very new skill, so don't be discouraged! Just continue to be silent, boring, and consistent.
  • Again, praise. In the morning, give high fives, hugs, and specific words to praise your big kid.
Pretty soon, you should be able to get back to your typical bedtime routine of just kissing your child goodnight without having to stay in the room. If you need to, you may find it helpful to slowly transition out of the room - such as sitting a little further away each night until your little one is falling asleep without you in the room again.

*Look for next week's post about dealing with other common sleep problems!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Flying with kids

This topic is on my mind since I just took a cross-country trip with my kids. This was the first time I have flown by myself with the kids, and thankfully things went smoothly!  But, traveling with kids can be very stressful, so here are some strategies to help keep you sane!

Flying with infants (0-2):

  • Check your stuff!  Although you may have to pay to check your suitcase, most airlines will check baby gear for free - including car seats and strollers. The less stuff you are hauling through the airport, the better!  A simple umbrella stroller can be used in the airport, if needed, but a carrier like a Bjorn is also very convenient.  (Also, you don't need to purchase one of those expensive car seat covers to protect the car seats in transit - just buy some heavy duty garbage bags, they work great!)  
  • Ship necessities ahead of time. Particularly if you have an extended stay, it makes sense to ship your bulk items (like diapers, baby food, or formula) to your destination to save space in your luggage.
  • Pacifier clip. If your baby uses a pacifier, you won't want it to accidentally fall on the floor of the airport or airplane. This clip is awesome (and cute)!
  • Pack smart. Make sure to be prepared with anything you may not find at an airport or on the plane. You should have a change of clothes for the baby (and a fresh shirt for yourself), plenty of wipes and diapers, a disposable changing pad, infant pain reliever, and some toys and books. You can always buy snacks and water/juice/milk while traveling if needed.

Flying with older kids (2+):

  • Be safe. Airports are busy places, and kids can get lost. If your kids are too young to understand rules (such as "Stay with mommy"), consider one of those backpack harnesses. Whatever you may feel about these products, my view is that whatever keeps your kids safe (and you a bit more sane) is worth looking into! If your kids are older, and capable of sticking with you and following directions, you still need to ensure their safety. Consider writing your cell phone number on your child's hand or arm (in Sharpie so it doesn't easily wash off), and maybe even your flight number. 
  • Screens. Throw away your rules on limiting screen time! Your child's brain will not rot after a day of watching movies or playing games on the iPad, and it will make your trip so much more relaxing. Plus, new regulations allow you to use electronic devices from gate to gate, which makes take-off and landing so much easier. Be sure to have a variety of your child's favorite movies and games to keep their attention. (On our recent flight, my kids and the little girl right behind us were all watching "Frozen" at the same time!) You will need some child-friendly headphones, and also a splitter if you have multiple kids and one screen (we use this one). A kid-friendly case for your device is also a good idea (we have this one and it has been virtually indestructible)!
  • Food and drink. If money is not an issue for your family, you don't have to worry about packing meals, drinks, etc. You can just purchase these at the airport or on the plane. But, if you're like me, you will want to pack everything ahead of time. I recommend bringing an empty spill-proof water bottle (like this) to fill with water at the airport (most airports now have filtered water for this very purpose!). Bring plenty of snacks, preferably non-refrigerated and individually packaged - such as fruit snacks, boxes of raisins, applesauce pouches, granola bars, and small apples. If you have foods that can be crushed (such as cookies, chips, and crackers), put those in a plastic container first.
  • Potty breaks. Try to plan out trips to the bathroom as best as you can, but also know that potty breaks will come frequently and at the worst times - be prepared! Have a plan for how you will handle airplane potty trips if you are alone with multiple kids. In my case, I was traveling alone with my two 4-year-olds, so I would leave one in our seats (entertained with the iPad) while I took the other one to the bathroom (where we would both squeeze in). Assume that potty breaks will have to occur "NOW!" at the most inopportune times. My kids announced they needed to go right when we were supposed to board the plane, and also right when there was bad turbulence and the seatbelt sign went on. The 4-year-old girl behind us announced her own potty emergency right when the plane landed and everyone was standing in the aisle waiting to de-plane. In general, people will understand that kids have to go when they have to go! And, if they don't understand - oh well! It's better to deal with some bystander grumbling than to deal with wet pants!
Things to remember:
  • The trip will go smoother if you are well-prepared, but you can't be prepared for everything, so expect the unexpected!
  • Traveling gets much easier as your kids get older - they understand directions, can sit still for longer periods, and can (mostly) control their impulses. I have flown at least once a year with my kids since infancy, and this last trip was infinitely easier now that they are 4 1/2!
  • Just get through this one day...and enjoy that glass of wine tonight!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Picky eaters

Like many parents, I am well-versed in the world of picky eaters. I would characterize both of my kids as pretty significant picky eaters at age 4 1/2, and one of them was even a finicky eater as a newborn. From birth, he never seemed very interested in eating, and when he did decide to eat, he would get distracted easily by any noise or movement. We were constantly worried about his growth, since he was only at the 3rd percentile for weight, which was well below his more hefty identical twin brother. Eventually, he found foods that he actually liked, and his weight percentiles increased. He is still smaller than his twin, but his weight percentiles now hover around the 50th percentile (hooray for average!). Looking back on it now, I think we probably contributed to his finickiness by always being in a state of worry around mealtimes. But, as parents, it seems it is in our job description to be concerned about the nutrition and health of our children. Unfortunately, this often exacerbates picky eating.

Picky eating typically begins at about 18 months of age, just when kids are beginning to want some control and autonomy in their lives. Try as we might, parents simply cannot control what their children eat, and kids quickly learn this fact. So, although I can't promise today's post will improve your child's picky eating, I hope at least it will help you to stay sane during this phase!
  • Relax and don't enter into a power struggle! Force-feeding, bribing, coersion, and yelling are not effective and create negative associations around mealtimes. So, see picky eating for what it is - a phase - and just let it be. 
  • Keep a routine. Instead of grazing all day long, try to stick to three meals and two small snacks per day. If you can, keep these meals and snacks at about the same times every day.
  • Don't be a short-order cook. This is really important. Serve your kids whatever you choose to serve them, and then don't give in and make something else instead. You may want to serve preferred meals for breakfast and lunch, and then challenge their palates for dinner. This may mean they don't actually eat a real dinner, but since you know they ate well all day, just relax and try not to worry about it. 
  • Serve small portions. If you are presenting new or disliked foods, keep the portions small. For instance, just give one spoonful of chili in a bowl, or a tiny slice of pizza on the plate. Not only do you save on wasted foods when they are not eaten, but you don't overwhelm your kids with a huge plate of something new.
  • Separate the foods. Some kids are more likely to try new foods if you present them separately. For instance, when serving hard tacos, you might give your kids a plate with a taco shell, a scoop of meat, a spoonful of tomatoes, some cheese, and a few shreds of lettuce - all separated on the plate. When served this way, they have the option of putting it altogether to make a taco, or just eating the ingredients separately. 
  • Serve one healthy, preferred food with each meal. This is a good way to ensure your kids will eat something (and thus not be hungry and cranky later), and also to keep them engaged at the dinner table. For instance, if I am serving spaghetti and meatballs, I try to also serve garlic bread and salad with the meal, since I know my kids will actually eat those things. 
  • Keep introducing foods. This includes foods your kids don't like, as well as healthful foods they do like. One of my kids loved scrambled eggs as a toddler, and would eat 5 eggs in a single sitting. For whatever reason, I stopped making eggs for a few months, and when I re-introduced them, it was like starting all over and he refused to eat them. Sigh.
  • Try new mediums. Try different forms of foods if your kids refuse an entire food group. One of my kids won't touch cheese in any form - except, that is, for the cheese on Lance cheese snack crackers. (Crackers are a powerful thing for little kids!) Once I knew that he liked them, I made sure to talk to him about the fact that it was cheese that he was enjoying, so that he had a positive association with it. If your kids do not like veggies, try veggie chips or veggie juices. We love V8 Fusion juices because they have lots of veggies but taste like fruit juice. 
  • Expand on preferences. Maybe your kids love peanut butter sandwiches and refuse to eat anything else. No problem! Start experimenting with putting peanut butter on different kinds of bread, then move to bagels, then rice cakes, then apple slices, then a stick of celery. You are then using their preferences to expand what they will eat. 
  • Peer pressure. Even to toddlers and preschoolers, peer pressure is a powerful tool. Your child is more likely to try new foods around friends, siblings, and cousins who are eating those foods. My kids greatly expanded their food repertoires when they started preschool and ate lunch with a group of good eaters!
  • Encourage exploration. If your kids have an extremely limited repertoire, or an aversion to certain textures, it may be difficult to get them to try (i.e., chew and swallow) new foods. So, you may have to start from the beginning. First, encourage your kids to allow new foods on their plates. Then, encourage them to touch the new food with their fingers. Then, move on to sniffing the new food. When this is easy, you can encourage him to taste the new food. Chewing and swallowing is the last step - and this might take several introductions!
  • Praise. As always, be sure to praise your kids for exhibiting wanted behavior. In this case, if your child tries a new food, take notice! You don't have to throw a party, but let them know you are pleased. One of my kids is particularly picky, but the other morning he voluntarily asked to try some of my oatmeal - and he loved it! This was a huge step for him, so I made sure to video chat his dad at work so we could celebrate the experience.
Things to remember:
  • Picky eating is a phase! As long as your pediatrician says your child is healthy and developing well, just give a multivitamin, continue to present healthy foods, and try to relax. 
  • Kids with special needs, such as an autism spectrum disorder, may have more challenging picky eating behaviors. Consider consulting with an occupational therapist in your school or local agency, as they often have great training and insight into treatment for extreme picky eating.