I read a brilliant article in the Telegraph on Saturday (2nd July 2016) written by a journalist who has three fussy eaters. It was the typical pattern. Child ate everything under the sun until the age of 1 at which point they started refusing to eat anything green. I’ve been here and we’re coming out of the other end but still these types of articles fascinate me because I’ve always had a theory that I might have been to blame. I’m not a fussy eater. I love eating infact, but I’m not a great cook. I lack imagination. I cook the same 4 meals over and over again because when I try something new the kids reject it and I can’t work out whether it’s because it’s new or because my cooking is so bad that they genuinely have a point. My husband won’t let me cook for him anymore. I cocked up Rice Krispie cakes. I once set fire to a taco in a microwave. You can see how my insecurities have taken hold.
The Telegraph arranged for Lucy Thomas, Owner of Mange Tout Kids, a fussy eating guru and ex nanny to visit the home of the three fussy eaters in question and work her magic. And she did. Of course she did – it’s her business!!!!
She started her magic not at the dinner table, but on the floor of the lounge. Her mantra appears to be that if you make it fun, take away the pressure, then you’ll get results. Don’t introduce new and tricky food at meal times. Children learn through play – let them play. All pre-conceptions were left at the lounge door. All too often we assume that our kids should know that the food we’re putting infront of them is good for them, but why would they? It’s not knowledge they’re born with. Indeed it’s highly likely that kids become fussy at 1 as a survival instinct to stop them from eating things such as poisonous berries. It’s somewhat frustrating when you buy those berries from Asda. Surely they’re not poisonous?!?!
The kids were encouraged to explore the food with the help of a reward chart. They picked it up, felt it, squashed it, listened to it, shook it, smelt it and finally made patterns in it with their teeth because by the time they’d used all of their other sense to explore it then using their mouths was the logical next step. Suddenly these kids were putting raw vegetables in their mouths and there hadn’t been an enormous battle. Lucy hadn’t spent an hour preparing the meal beforehand, trying really hard to do something amazing for her kids only to have the little sods throw it back in her face. By the time the food guru left the kids were sat at the table eating pasta with spinach sauce. What the hell is spinach sauce? Presumably the reason I’ve never heard of that is because it’s not part of the Dolmio range.
This article struck me more than most because Lucy’s approach to food rings with the approach I’ve taken to inspiring kids to read. Early years kids learn best through play and I know this – it’s the founding principle of Story Storks. I teach early years maths by telling the story of Goldilocks. I wish I had realised 5 years ago, when my eldest daughter Rachel pushed that first plate of vegetables away, that getting angry and upset wasn’t the way forward. My god we’ve battled. I’ve stood in the kitchen crying over lasagnes and cottage pies and tagines and macaroni cheeses when what I should have done was put away my recipe books and got out my imagination. She didn’t starve, in part because she was only fussy at home and ate everything put infront of her at nursery. She now eats calamari. She’ll try everything at least once. We got through it. Time may not have sorted out my cooking skills but it did sort the child.
Lucy’s website is great and she writes a blog so if you’re living this nightmare have a look http://www.mangetoutkids.com or find her on Facebook.
As for me, I haven’t given up all hope that one day I’ll be a whizz in the kitchen. But for now, whilst I have a business to run and two small kids to look after I thank my lucky stars that I’m married to a man who can cook like Jamie Oliver and was once described by a drag queen as a Young Bruce Willis. Lucky lucky me!
Click HERE for Lucy’s website
Click HERE for Lucy’s facebook page
And no, I don’t know her and she hasn’t asked me to write this blog but I recognise a genius when I see one and I think her work deserves some genuine recognition.
Picture: Rachel doing her best fake smile having been presented with Spag Bol for the third time in a week. At least I hadn’t burnt it!