Jacqueline Parkinson is a Children’s Occupational Therapist based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Her team including a Speech and Language Therapist, Dietician and Therapy Assistants work with children with eating difficulties. More information can be found at https://magnificentmunchers.co.uk


Tips for enjoying Christmas Dinner with a Fussy Eater Toddler.

Christmas dinner can be a very stressful time especially if you have a fussy eater toddler. Therefore, follow our simple steps which will help prepare your toddler for Christmas dinner and reduce your stress.

The Impact of the 5 senses on a Fussy Eater Toddler

Christmas dinner can be a sensory overload for fussy eater toddlers. The noise of everyone talking, scraping their cutlery and chewing their food. The smell of all the different types of food as well as all the various perfumes and body sprays guests may use. The sight of unfamiliar foods, of other people eating and potential mess on the table. Guests are often packed tightly around the table resulting in them sitting very close to your toddler who may not like unexpected touch. The thought of having to taste new foods can be distressing. This can all be very overwhelming especially if meal times are not your toddler’s favourite time of the day. Therefore spending time helping your fussy eater prepare for the meal can help to reduce stress for all involved.

Get Creative with Food:

During December do some sensory play activities that will help your toddler familiarise themselves with the look, smell and feel of some of the foods. Instead of using paints and playdoh use food for creative play because this will help your child get to know the foods and therefore find them less scary. Try these simple activities:

1.Use a packet of dried stuffing. Let your child tip the contents into a bowl and feel all the dried breadcrumbs and look for the green specs of herbs. As you pour the water in, they will be fascinated by how the mixture changes so tell them what is happening. The smell of the sage and onions gradually develops, name the smells.
Next shape the stuffing balls into Christmas shapes. Use fresh herbs to make features.
2. Make mashed potato into snow scenes. Use a potato ricer to make the mash because this creates a smooth finish with no lumps. Use fruits and vegetables to add snowman features.
3. Turn Pigs in Blankets into boats using herbs, meats or even brussel leaves as sails and race around a gravy pond.
4. Create your own Christmas tree collage using a variety of vegetables and fruit. A food chopper makes brilliant cauliflower snow.
5. Play flick or blow football with brussel sprouts they make excellent balls. Parsnips can be goal posts.

Make sure you join in the fun because your toddler will be looking for your reaction and will copy. They will soon forget about the mess if they are having fun but have a towel handy. Sometimes messy hands can cause a toddler to get upset therefore show them how they can wipe their hands and carry on. Most importantly have fun with the food, because it doesn’t matter if they don’t eat it as they are learning about the food.

Our Creations

Below are some of our creative ideas. All photographed by https://www.facebook.com/ewawozniakphotography/

Rudolf made from sage and onion stuffing with rosemary and thyme antlers


Christmas shapes made from sage & onion stuffing

Snowmen made from mashed potato with cauliflower rice snow

Pigs in blankets with sails made from ham, sage & brussel sprout leaves

Brocolli Xmas tree with grape and sweetcorn garlands, twiglet trunk and cauliflower snow

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day follow these top 10 tips to enjoy your Christmas Dinner with your fussy eater toddler:
1. Give them their preferred food, Christmas day is not the day for new food
2. You have some of their preferred food too
3. Don’t be tempted to put unfamiliar food on their plate e.g. a token brussel sprout
4. Get them to help with some aspect of the dinner, making stuffing balls is great fun
5. Make time for some outdoor play before dinner to burn some energy
6. Decrease fidgeting – ensure they are sat at a good height for the table with feet supported
7. Keep a towel on the back of their chair to quickly deal with any spillages or mess
8. Use a party straw for their drinks as sucking can be calming
9. Have some table top toys for them to play with once they have finished eating
10. Make sure your toddler is sat next to adults who understand their food likes/dislikes.