What to do when your child is fussy about how they have their pasta!

rotini, helix, shaped, pasta

PASTA is a popular and ‘safe’ food for many fussy eaters – but that doesn’t mean they won’t fuss about HOW they have it!

🔸 Does your child only eat one SHAPE of pasta?
🔸 Will your child only eat it PLAIN?
🔸 Or only with ONE particular SAUCE?

Here’s my advice and tips on how to overcome these problems.

#1 Introduce new pasta shapes and sauces – gently!

As I always say, a child can’t start eating a food that isn’t even there! So the first thing you HAVE to do is start putting a small amount of a different-shaped pasta on their plate alongside their normal pasta, or a tiny amount of sauce on top of their pasta (don’t do both at once – tackle one problem at a time!). This ‘exposure’ to the new pasta or sauce is the first essential step to your child becoming familiar and comfortable with it – and accepting that you ARE going to put it on their plate! (Scared of their reaction?! Read exactly how to deal with this here.) It need only be as little as a 1/4 new pasta to their normal pasta (next to each other, not mixed together) and a tiny amount of sauce on top of a tiny part of their pasta. This way your child feels in control – they can choose to leave it and there will still be plenty for them to eat. At this stage, we’re not expecting them to eat it – and there should be no pressure whatsoever to do so – not even to try it! You have to give them time to decide that by themselves for this to work.

#2 Guess the shape

Pasta tastes the same whatever the shape – so can they detect what shape a piece of pasta is just by putting it in their mouth?! Get a sample of 5 or 6 different shapes of pasta, cook them, and lay them out individually on a chopping board and run through their names (doesn’t have to be the Italian ones!). Now blindfold yourself and ask them to randomly pop one in your mouth for you to guess what shape it is. Next ask them if THEY want to have a go at guessing. (Don’t push them to – just try again another day if they say no). Put ALL the focus on guessing the shape and NONE on the eating (Don’t say “Do you like it? Is it nice? Will you eat it if I cook it for dinner then?!”). This is a really fun way for them to get over their psychological barrier to new shapes of pasta.

#3 Messy play

This is a good activity for 2 to 5 year olds. Give them some cooked pasta of a shape they don’t eat and some leftover sauce, plus pots, containers and utensils – and let them get stuck in! (Good one for the garden if the weather allows.) This really helps to get them familiar and comfortable with the new pasta and sauce and creates pleasurable and positive associations with it. If they pop a bit in their mouth while they’re playing, great, but that’s not the aim. And if they do, never show your delight or ask if they like it – that’s likely to illicit a resounding ‘no’ and make them stop eating it! If you play WITH them for the first 5 or 10 minutes and give them your full attention, this will increase their pleasure and positive associations.

#4 Teach them the Italian names!

With children we tend to call penne ‘tubes’ and fusilli ‘spirals’ or ‘twisty pasta’ – but kids love to learn foreign words. They think they’re cool and it makes them feel empowered – which, again, will give them feel more positive towards different shapes. Show them all the different pastas in the supermarket – or better still, get a sample of each shape and stick them to a piece of card. Then teach them the Italian names one by one, testing them every so often in a relaxed, fun way. “Can you remember what this one’s called?” When they know them all, ask them to choose one of the shapes to cook for dinner/tea that evening, putting other ‘reliable’ foods you know they’ll eat on their plate or table too. Remember, zero pressure to eat it – and if they don’t eat it, certainly don’t say “But YOU chose it”!

If you like this, you might like What to do when your child won’t eat RICE.