Back in June I decided it was time to deal with Reuben’s fussy eating. Since the age of one he had refused to eat anything that wasn’t beige, with the exception of fruit, and absolutely no meat or vegetables (unless you hid them, of course). I went through a whole range of emotions from feeling like a failure and a terrible mother, to acceptance and cutting myself some slack (I highly recommend going with the latter, by the way).
I wrote a post about How to cope with a fussy eater well over a year ago to help me deal with it, as really it was only me who was suffering. And, while I was happily going along with that process and there were some improvements (the addition of spaghetti Bolognese was a huge turning point), I felt at nearly 3 it really was time to try something new. Enter the sticker chart (here’s a free Halloween sticker chart I made yesterday!).
Fussy Eating Sticker Chart
I’ve always been dubious about the merit of the sticker chart. We’d had virtually no success with the sleep sticker chart…but I felt that the immediate relationship between “eat something healthy/new” and “here’s a sticker” was a lot easier to understand and succeed at (compared to stay in bed all night and get a sticker in the morning). So we gave it a shot.
Good ol’ pinterest pointed me to this generic sticker chart from Twinkl, we printed it out and I spent a bit of time explaining what it was all about to Reuben.
That night he licked a pea. A PEA! Well, I was thrilled.
The next day he tried some mango – it went into his mouth and promptly came back out. Still progress.
The next day he ate a spoonful of kiwi – it went into his mouth and didn’t come out again. Success!
And so it continued, little and often. Some days we didn’t get chance but I tried to consistently encourage him to try something new when we could.
Then we went on holiday…
Fussy eaters on holiday
Holiday has always been a huge backwards step in Reuben’s eating with the all you can eat buffet and eating out. He seems to put his guard up and he won’t eat anything, even things he’ll normally eat.
So for 10 days, he had a sausage for breakfast (something we weren’t expecting since he didn’t usually like sausage), then chips for lunch and dinner. Just awful. There would be snacks, like a jam sandwich and fruit, but generally it was a big thumbs down. But we had to pick our battle and felt, for the sake of a pleasant holiday, this wasn’t one of them.
Fussy eaters – extra bribes?
Once we got home, that’s when I got serious!
I’ll admit I did introduce extra bribes. We had some leftover gold coins from his party and he loves Paw Patrol at the moment so to begin with this was introduced as a reward for trying something new. I have read that this is not a good approach though (I touched on it in this post: Help Fussy Eaters Eat) so you may want to do a bit more research and proceed with caution but it has worked for us but isn’t necessary all the time. Sometimes just the chart is enough.
3 months later and the sticker chart is very much needed at every meal. But he now, with a little encouragement, eats vegetables and meat, which he wouldn’t touch 3 months ago. It could have been the chart. It could have been his age. Most likely a combination of the two but to me this is success!
My tips for Fussy eater sticker chart success
1. Start small
Even if it’s just touching a forbidden food, for a fussy eater that is amazing! Then move onto lick, then put it in their mouth and finally, if you’re lucky, they will swallow it. High fives all round.
2. Write down what was achieved in advance of them trying/eating it
Maybe not on the first few goes – you don’t want to set yourself up for a fall but I’ve found it has a number of benefits. Firstly, you are informing them of what they need to do to get the sticker. Secondly, you’ll have a record to see how far you’ve come. Thirdly, you can read it back to your little one to remind them of what they have eaten before. Reuben really enjoys doing this.
3. Take your time
This is a marathon not a sprint (for those who like a cliche), who cares if it takes half a year to fill in one sticker chart? Don’t beat yourself up just keep trying.
4. Be consistent
Try to regularly introduce something new. We don’t do it every day but since we’ve been home I’ve been aiming for 3 to 4 new/not loved (yet!) things a week.
5. But it’s OK to take breaks
Like I say, you might miss a day here and there because life is busy y’all. It’s also OK to take a break on holiday, in my humble opinion. A holiday is a lot less fun when you’re stressing about your fussy eater, I can tell you.
6. Celebrate the successes
Like really go to town on how amazing they are for licking that pea. Whooping, cheering, clapping, running around, it’s all encouraged.
7. Don’t stress when it doesn’t go to plan
Just when you think you’ve got broccoli cracked, you will be proved wrong and no amount of encouragement is going to do it. It’s just a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.
8. Get a really good reward for completing the chart
Reuben really wants something to do with Paw Patrol, of course. But it doesn’t have to be expensive or even a thing. It could be an experience to do as a family – a trip to Lego Land anyone? Maybe a bit extravagant for licking a couple of peas but you get my point!
9. Mum and Dad need a reward too, right?
Yup, book in a date night as a treat for being consistent and working together. Any excuse!
10. Have fun with it!
Our kids are only little for a while and I hear that I’ll look back on this period with fondness.
I bet I do as well. It’s been so funny, even hilarious at times, seeing his little, proud face when he’s achieved something he knows makes me happy. It kind of makes you forget all the heartache and thrown food. Well, sort of.
Do you have a fussy eater? Have you ever had any success with a sticker chart?
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks to encourage a fussy eater to try new things!