Every time we go to my friend Anna’s house, she puts a plate of fruit out for the kids. Plums, Asian pears, melons. My daughter always devours piece after piece. However, whenever I feed the child the same type of fruit at home, she’s rarely interested. What’s the difference? I’ve concluded that it has to be Anna’s cute little food picks.
Anna buys hers at the Korean store. You can get them at Daiso in the bento supply section or at online stores. They are simply small plastic picks adorned with bunny heads or emergency vehicles or googly eyes. You stick one in each bite of food — whether it’s fruit or mini meatballs — and let your kids feed themselves with their little fingers.
It sounds like a lot of work, but young children don’t eat all that much. I’d say the routine takes an extra 30 seconds. (To wash them, put them in a cup with water a bit of dishwashing liquid and shake it up.)
If you don’t want to purchase food picks, plain ol’ toothpicks can entice kids to try different foods just as well. Jennifer Anderson, a dietitian and the founder of the wonderful picky eating resource Kids Eat in Color, writes about the “magic” of toothpicks on her blog:
Once you are cool with your toddler poking himself or herself a few times (they usually don’t do it more than a few times), pull out a toothpick. You can use a plain toothpick or a party toothpick. Whatever it looks like is beside the point. Your kiddo will want to stab stuff once they have it. Make sure you are giving them foods that are safe for them to eat (without choking). And let them go for it.
Anderson suggests introducing toothpicks to your kid after the age of 18 months, longer cocktail toothpicks after age two and food picks after age three. Include the picks in your veggie happy hour and watch those bites of carrots and broccoli disappear.