HEALTH

Fussy Children Should Be Encouraged To Play With Their Food

28/09/2017 9:14 PM AEST | Updated 28/09/2017 9:14 PM AEST

Your prayers for an answer to mealtime battles have been answered, experts are now advising parents to let children play with their food, push it around their plate and generally make a right old mess at the table.

But there is one down side - think of all the stains.

According to NICE, the experts who write the guidelines for GPs and health visitors, if your child is struggling to gain weight in early childhood, relaxing the rules at meal times could give them the “best chance” of reaching a healthy weight.

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Instead of worrying about your child’s manners, NICE are urging parents to relax and stop cajoling children into eating nicely, as this could be preventing them from doing so at all.

It recommends eating together as a family, and avoiding “punitive” approaches to bad behaviour that turn a simple supper into a drawn-out battle (and inevitably all the food remaining uneaten anyway).

The problem of slow weight gain is also known as “faltering growth” and experts believe it may be associated with persisting problems with appetite and feeding.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “Having a child with faltering growth can be distressing for parents and carers.

“However, simple things such as encouraging relaxed and enjoyable feeding and mealtimes, eating together as a family or even allowing young children to be ‘messy’ with their food can help encourage them to eat.”

According to data collected in the National Child Measurement Programme, in 2015, 1% of children aged four to five were underweight.

Newborn infants normally lose weight in the early days of life. However persisting or large weight losses can be a sign of possible problems with feeding and weaning.

In older children, faltering growth can occur when a child does not eat enough to get the energy needed for growth and development.

“Picky eating is very common,” said Dr Lee Hudson, consultant paediatrician with expertise in feeding and eating disorders on behalf of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

“Most children and young people will change what they are willing or interested in eating through their lives, often in conjunction with periods of growth spurts.

“The important thing for parents is not to panic as most children who are picky will either be going through a phase, and will still have enough food to grow and develop properly.”

Read HuffPost UK’s report on the psychology behind children’s fussy eating to find out more. 

“Most children and young people will change what they are willing or interested in eating through their lives, often in conjunction with periods of growth spurts.

The important thing for parents is not to panic as most children who are picky will either be going through a phase, and will still have enough food to grow and develop properly.”

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