Anyone who’s dealt with a picky kid (and who hasn’t?) knows that feeding a picky eater is the opposite of fun. And I’ve found two new parenting resources—one a book, the other a game—which aim to change that. Both were developed by moms to use children’s natural affinity for games, competition, and high scores, all with the aim of ending mealtime drama.
No matter which you choose, I think the whole family can win big.
Now I must say that I find that turning mealtime into a game takes more work than I’m personally willing to give. However many parents find it easier and way less stressful to gamify eating challenges, instead of adopting my eat-it-or-be-excused-from-the-table approach. If you’re one of those parents, you’re going to love these two new picky eater resources.
I especially like that neither were developed from a place of judgement—in fact, both mom creators have dealt with picky eaters themselves. Which is probably why they never make you feel like you’re doing everything wrong; just offering some new ways to think about mealtime and help make minimize those picky eater battles at mealtime.
The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler
Most grownups find it easier to make a shift in their own diet when they have a framework to guide them through small, manageable changes. Why shouldn’t the same be true for kids? Jennifer Tyler Lee takes this approach in her new parenting-book-cum-cookbook, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year. The gist is turning these small changes into a gamified challenge to try one new food each week of the year. This keeps things manageable for everyone, and the kids will love the points system for rewards.
I also appreciate that Jennifer empathizes with us parents as much as she hopes to get kids eating better, because mama guilt can run high when you realize your kids only eat four things.
The book includes a list of 52 new foods broken down by season, each paired with several recipes. Some of the foods may be new to you too, by the way. This is by design: Being in the game with your kids not only makes it more fun, but keeps it from turning into a power struggle. In other words, get ready to cook with ingredients like whole wheat flour, okra, and even lavender.
I have a feeling that everyone will be a whole wheat convert if you serve these whole wheat crepes that come in the 52 New Foods Challenge bonus pack.
Jennifer spends some time reiterating advice we’ve heard before (Buy in season! Get the kids helping in the kitchen!), but at least they are specific to the game. Context is everything and I can easily accept her tips as useful reminders, instead of some general, one-sized-fits-all plan.
The RoundedPlate Game
RoundedPlate, a game designed to shift your kids’ eating habits over the course of 21 days, was created by mom-of-three and occupational therapist, Rachel Pollard, when she and her husband realized that their kids weren’t eating a well-rounded diet. So she created RoundedPlate which isn’t a philosophy and there’s no advice to wade through; you just start the game and see where it takes you.
The whole family is encouraged to play over the course of 21 days, during which players track their food with a focus on vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, protein, grain and starches. Every day that you meet your goal, you get a bonus sticker, and every week that you earn 5-7 bonus stickers, you claim a bonus prize which you determine at the beginning.
The game does come with a long list of very common and some less common foods that can be checked off as you eat them but really, the game is all about eating enough healthy foods throughout the day to get your daily bonus sticker. In that way, the game sets simple, clear expectations, rewards, and consequences that hopefully motivate your kids.
At the very least, the game will help divert battles; if your kids don’t eat their veggies, they already know that they’ll miss out on a bonus sticker. It’s that simple.
The only catch as I see it, is that it’s not really designed to expand your child’s diet. For example, if you have a kid who’ll willingly eat a small selection of veggies, fruit, dairy, and grain, she could conceivably earn bonus stickers by eating the same thing every day for the duration of the game. If you’re fine with that—because a carrot is a vegetable, even if it’s the only vegetable that your child will eat—RoundedPlate will work for you. Otherwise, think about tweaking the rules so that kids have to change up their choices as you see fit. Because overall, RoundedPlate is a great system to help make sure kids are making healthy choices every day and becoming more conscientious about just what comprises their diets.
You can buy RoundedPlate online for $29.95 through the RoundedPlate website.
(Top photo from 52 New Foods Challenge.)