This article shares 10 irresistible outdoor activities to improve your child’s picky eating.
You’ve been offering and offering and offering…and it seems like there is nothing you can possibly do to get your child to try a new food.
The work of helping your extremely picky eater try new foods starts at the table. The magic of them actually eating? That might happen when they’re doing something that doesn’t feel, sound, or look like eating.
Getting hands on with food, or engaging in sensory food play, is one of the best ways to help younger picky eaters feel more comfortable with new foods, work up to trying new foods, and eventually eat new foods.
Yes, serving a picky eater new foods is important (don’t stop doing this! And do start it if you’re not already!), but simply offering new foods is not enough to help most extreme picky eaters actually eat new foods.
Most kids will also need to experience food in a fun, low-pressure way. One of the best ways to do this is by getting hands on with food.
Hands-on food play that focuses on exploring and having fun (not eating) can break down fears and aversions that picky eaters have about eating new foods and instead give children positive experiences with food.
When kids know that they are not expected to eat, they are more likely to relax and find enjoyment, which is key to building their motivation to eat.
Take advantage of everything summer has to offer – good weather, prime growing season, and school-free days – and try some of our outdoor activities to improve picky eating.
10 Irresistible Outdoor Activities To Improve Picky Eating
1. Fruit and veggie washing station: Set your kids up with a stash of produce, a scrub brush, and a hose, sprinkler, watering can, or just a big bucket of water. Let the cleaning start! Or, make it extra easy with a kids-only sink that really works.
2. Catch: Swap out the baseball for any fruit or veggie. You can even use frozen fruit for an extra cooling sensory experience.
3. Farmers market visit: Sunday trips to the farmers market is one of my son’s favorite activities….probably because he always ends up with a treat. And by treat, I mean fresh fruits or veggies to snack on while we shop.
Even if you don’t regularly visit the farmers market, make an effort to check one out and bring your kiddo along. They can help you shop, explore the seasonal produce, find what looks good to them, and chat with the farmers.
Even these largely hands-off experiences can be instrumental for eating.
4. Get dirty with backyard or windowsill planting: Make a little garden with 1-2 fruits, veggies or herbs, and let your child be responsible for them. When they’re ready to be picked, include them in a meal you can make together.
Need inspiration? Check out my blog post with 10 ideas for gardening with your picky eater.
5. Visit a farm or community garden: Missing a green thumb? Find a local farm or community garden to explore.Learning about where food comes from might be an easier starting point for a more hesitant eater who isn’t ready to even touch new foods yet.
6. Have a picnic: There’s something so special about laying out a blanket or sitting at a picnic table. And that something special can be a game changer for kiddos. The change of scenery, the excitement, the thrill of something completely new – these can be magic ingredients for transforming hesitant eaters and dissolving mealtime meltdowns.
7. Make a lemonade stand: Get old school and suggest your child can make lemonade from scratch. Encourage flavoring it with some fresh cucumber, herbs, and fresh fruits. An actual stand is optional, but can be a creative way to boost your child’s investment in what they made and take the focus away from them.
8. Round Food Spoon Race: Grab some eggs and a few spoons, and head outdoors! If the egg spoon race is new to you, this is how it works: each racer balances an egg on their spoon and races to the end. The trick is not dropping the egg! While you can use a fresh egg, try hard-boiled – just in case the race piques your kiddo’s appetite. Eggs not your thing? Try using other round foods, like kiwi, tomatoes, or berries.
9. Sink or Float Challenge: Fill up a kiddy pool or large bin with water and do a sink and float test with different foods. Your kids can predict which foods will sink and which will float. Use preferred foods and novel foods. And supplement with non-food items, if it adds to the fun.
10. Fruit picking: Summer is berry and tomato season – and just about everything else, too. Find a pick-you-own farm where your child can learn about how foods grow and pick some of their own. Plan a recipe you can make with your bounty. And don’t forget to taste test along the way!
Want more? Check out my 5 summer sensory food play ideas.