Picky Eaters: Use Honest and Fun Manipulation

How do you get your kids to eat their dinner with enthusiasm, without serving chicken nuggets or hamburger and french fries every night?  I have a tip for you…manipulate them into wanting it.

You can make it an exciting experience for them by making it something “more” than it really is!  Let’s just say putting it into a different context.

Here are a few examples that I have used in my home to “help” my kids enjoy their dinner:

  • Ratatouille – My children watched the movie Ratatouille about the rat who is a fabulous chef.  The rat serves the city’s notorious (and most often, negative) food critic a dish that literally takes him back to his mother’s kitchen in his small peasant home.  This dish, ratatouille, was considered a peasant dish and not to be served to those in the upper class.  However, in this instance, it revolutionizes the future of the restaurant, the food critic and the rat!  My children loved this movie for the fun, whimsical work of a rat (and a few of his friends) in an upscale restaurant kitchen.  They begged that I make ratatouille for them after watching this movie.  And guess what….they loved it!  Now, when I have ratatouille on the menu, I always make sure to put the movie on first.
  • Stone Soup – Have you ever read the book Stone Soup to your children? It is a lovely little story about penniless strangers coming into town and asking the community for food.  Everyone in the town disappears and refuses to help them.  The strangers are able to outwit the townspeople into making a wonderful pot of soup for everyone to enjoy.  After reading this story, my children wanted to be like the towns people and bring many foods into the soup pot.  With the enthusiastic part they played in creating their own “stone soup,” the dish was a hit!
  • Shepherd’s Pie – One time, I told my children that Shepherds out in the pasture watching over their sheep needed to have a well-balanced, nutritious meal to keep their energy up and their attention focused.  Plus they didn’t have the means to carry a lot with them while tending the sheep.  Shepherd’s Pie enabled them to have their meat, vegetables and starch all in one dish.  But, upon research, this isn’t true (I’ll be sure to revise my story the next time I serve Shepherd’s Pie).  Shepherd’s Pie originated in northern England and Scotland where there are a large number of sheep.  The meat pie was a way for frugal peasant women to use up leftover meat, usually lamb or beef.  Nevertheless, I’m sure you can make it into a fun story to convince your kids to eat it.

    My Allergy-Friendly Shepherd's Pie

  • Prairie Meal – My daughter read the Little House on the Prairie series over the past year and really enjoyed them.   Her third grade class had “Prairie Day” where they played prairie games, made homemade butter, visited a log cabin and ate a prairie lunch.  Such items that consisted of the prairie lunch were hard-boiled eggs, chunk cheese, hard salami and bread with butter.  Carrying the lunch in a pale, basket or handkerchief made the food taste even better.

What creative ideas do you use to get your children to eat their dinner with excitement?

Be sure to check back in next Friday as I have one more trick up my sleeve to get your picky eaters to be more adventuresome at the dinner table.  If you missed last weeks post, I give other tips for dealing with picky eaters.

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4 Responses to Picky Eaters: Use Honest and Fun Manipulation

  1. Allison Walton says:

    Hey Michelle!
    I have read a lot about Muffin Tin Meals. They work really well for lunchtime meals. Here’s someone’s example post: http://michellesjournalcorner.blogspot.com/2011/07/muffin-tin-monday.html

    I always loved it when we would eat somewhere other than the table. Setting up a tent in the living room and “camping”, eating with the “fancy dishes” in the “fancy room” (aka dining room), or sitting on mats while wearing bowls on our heads and eating with chopsticks (it’s probably un-PC now) were a couple of favorites. I was so excited about what we were doing that, that I usually forgot about what we were eating.

    Ashley was a TERRIBLE picky eater. You can ask her about what we used to do.

    • Cook says:


      Thanks for those great suggestions! I hadn’t thought about any of them. I will check out that link too — muffin tin meals sounds intriguing. I’m always looking for new ways to “trick” the kids.

      Hope you’re well!

  2. Awesome post, Michelle! So funny that you use Stone Soup too as an incentive to get the kids to eat veggies too! The best way to get them to eat veggies or try new foods is get them into the kitchen cooking. I like to make a big fuss over it too when the meal is served by saying things like, “Look at what an amazing meal Aidan helped make tonight! We are all in for a real treat!” They’re already invested in the meal and now they’re also getting some accolades. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to eat everything – many times, my boys have still picked out certain veggies they don’t like, but it definitely helps. Kids go through picky phases on and off. One minute they love strawberries, the next minute they hate them. It can definitely be aggravating, but continuing to offer healthy foods and requiring a one or two bite rule too does help. 🙂

    • Cook says:

      Not like strawberries? Is that even possible? 🙂 My kids love to help me out in the kitchen. I shared your stone soup recipe on my facebook page today with a link back to my post here. I explained that my kids love to help out in the kitchen, especially after reading a book or movie or whatever related to it. I just have to put on the patient mommy demeanor for the process 🙂 We too have the rule that they have to have at least a few bites of everything I set in front of them. Most things are a winner, but there will be the occasional blunder…even for us adults 🙂 Thanks for your great tips here!

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