Grocery store games: Feeding the Finicky

shopping cart

Click this image to purchase these blank grocery lists from ClaireChadwickPaper/

A great way to get kids invested in food — and have a wider palate — is to take them to the grocery store.  Young kids love to learn their colors, feel the produce, smell things, and talk with mom.

Even my sensory defensive kid, overwhelmed by the lights and noises of our cavernous store, would go, wearing a hood or baseball cap — and if he could get in those enclosed grocery carts that look like cars (right) and “drive” around, he was in heaven. Some sensory kids like  ‘heavy work’ like carrying potatoes or a bag of flour.

produce market card

Click this image to purchase this postcard from Amy Lindroos.

My dear friend ran her family produce market, and I can’t recommend a small family place strongly enough!  Often she would have cut a melon or ambrosia apple or blood orange, and would give a little slice to the kids.  I credit her with a lot of our family’s health and regularity!  It was a great experience of community while it lasted.

Around kindergarten, we let the kids pick out our vegetable for dinner, or asked them to pick something new to try.  The grocery store is also a wonderful place to learn early math and learn to read!

Washington Apple

Click this image to purchase this vintage die cut from Retro Pickins.

Mine are past this age, and my 11-year-old son has started to protest that he can stay home.  And we have let him.

But we went to the store as a family recently, and I learned a LOT!

Thing 1 was a micropreemie, intubated, and sensory defensive.  He gags on gravy and yogurt textures.

So I have always served his food plain, and reserved the savory, tangy, and spicy sauces for us parents.  We went through the frozen food aisle and he pointed to the pictures of foods he thought he would eat.  They had sauces!

vintage look grocery sign

Click to purchase this double-sided sign from Plaid Ant.

I had him pick out a vegetable, and for a change, we did get a frozen dinner (chicken pasta ranch something or other).  I feel your frustration with your picky eaters, believe me I do!  But I’ve learned that it is an ongoing relationship with food that we are cultivating;  kids’ tastes change frequently and without notice, and given the opportunity, they usually want to eat something delicious and just need a little guidance.

I have a lot more to say about picky eaters!  I’m giving a free call Monday, November 10, at 12 noon.  Sign up here to join me, and if you can’t make the live call, you can listen to the recording.





15 thoughts on “Grocery store games: Feeding the Finicky

  1. What a journey it is to feed children. My kids go back and forth about what they like and don’t like. Sometimes, it’s maddeningly frustration. My daughter, now 13, has finally started preferring healthy and fresh food to prepared stuff. My son, now 11, is another matter. He could eat pizza and cocoa pebbles all day long. I finally got him to eat some salads, but he will only eat Ceasar and unless I cut the tomatoes up super tiny, he picks them all out. I do find that when I take them to the store with me, they choose fruits — I think because of the color. But of course, he prefer the more expensive ones like blueberries and raspberries. Sigh, I just stopped sweating over it and encourage him to make better choices as we go. Thanks for these tips!


    • Thanks for your comment, Donna Maria! I can’t knock pizza, haha, if it’s got all the food groups represented! 🙂 It is frustrating, and pizza is one thing I find it easy to give in to. Carry on, mama! xx a


  2. What a great suggestion to get kids more involved by bringing them to the grocery store and having the choose some food! I have really good memories of my mom bringing me to the farmer’s market in Montreal where I grew up. There were all kinds of interesting stands, vegetables, flowers, and other stuff, such as arts and crafts! It was like an adventure! I agree that kids’ tastes change over time and sometimes the atmosphere or feeling we create around meal-time is just as important as the actual food itself. If, as parents we become too much like health-food nazis, the kids are likely to rebel, but if we introduce things and have fun with it, or elicit their participation, even better! I get it that it’s not always easy, especially when we often have little time to prepare! I remember when my kids were younger, meal-time could become something of a battle ground if I let it. Exhausting and no fun!! So great that you’re giving a call on this topic, Angela! Yay!


    • Honestly, Gabrielle, I do grapple with the “health food nazi” role. Black and white seems so much easier to enforce! But “enforce” really doesn’t convey the relationship I want my kids to have with food. So, I’ve learned and continue to learn how to teach them, and what I can sneak past them at the same time, tee hee. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! xx A


  3. What a great idea to run a grocery store and let kids taste and try to fully experience the food! If only our huge, warehouse stores did this now. I have a seriously picking and texture sensitive child who gags on almost everything. I always used to take my kids shopping because I had no one to leave them with. Honestly, I really liked the alone time! I see how not having them there to experience the food has worked against me. They like to help me prep in the kitchen, but I need to include them more and continue to work on the experience. Thanks for helping so many navigate through the finicky eating chapter!!


    • Aly, my picky texture-sensitive one loves breads and cakes, and now that he’s 11, I find I can’t steer him where I want him to go as much as I used to. SO… I make cakes and breads! Haha. He knows they have zucchini, squash, even beets, and he doesn’t care. I add an egg and cut the sugar, maybe add peanut butter or nuts on top (not mixed in, please, mom!) and he can have good old British “breakfast cake” just like in that book “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Hope to see you on the free call on the 10th at noon. xx a


  4. Pingback: Tools of the trade: eating in style | Funnermother™: let's get fun!

  5. Another great post ~ thank you! I’m glad to discover your blog. Getting children involved in meal planning, shopping, cooking, etc., is a wonderful idea. I think all these experiences ~ including learning to enjoy cooking with “real” ingredients ~ are vital to children’s health! And it’s great family time (makes the “chore” of shopping more fun for parents as well!)

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