If you’re a parent of a picky eater, you know the mealtime struggle is real. Encouraging your little eater to try new foods can be stressful, and preparing meals that they’ll only eat two bites of can be discouraging. But, there are several fun strategies you can use to help your picky eater become a bit more adventurous during mealtime, and one of them is reading books written especially for them!
Just like reading to your kids about a new sibling, potty training or moving to a new home, there’s an array of children’s books that encourage kids to try new foods. With bright, colorful illustrations and fun plots, these books speak a kid’s language as they teach the importance of trying new foods. Plus, reading is a great way to spend quality time with your child. In this case, it might also open the door to discussing why your child doesn’t want to try certain foods—which might help you better understand how to manage mealtime. Time to cuddle up and read! Here are our 10 favorite children’s books for picky eaters.
Picky eater books for toddlers
Chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, teeny tiny tacos—dragons love them all. This tale playfully details this simple fact with a party that serves up tons of tacos. But where there are tacos, there’s spicy salsa, and when you mix dragons with spicy salsa…watch out!
A Dr. Seuss classic, this book follows Sam-I-am, who simply loves green eggs and ham. He loves them anywhere, everywhere, at any time of day, with an unrelenting wish to convince others to love them, too. The story frames an unusual food in a positive light as Sam’s friends begin to see the meal as quite a special snack. The illustrations and signature rhymes represent Dr. Seuss at his best.
In this topsy-turvy tale, the idea that kids don’t like vegetables gets turned upside down. Little Pea is quite unhappy about having to eat candy for dinner every night before he gets to eat his favorite dessert, spinach. The watercolor-style illustrations and sparse text add to the story’s playful feel. Little ones can identify with Pea, who loves rolling down hills and hanging out with his mom and dad.
The lively energy of artist Eric Carle brings to life song and verse in this vibrantly illustrated book. String beans, spaghetti, ZOOOOP, roast beef, fresh fish, chicken and ice cream are the featured dishes each day of the week, until Sunday—when the children of the world all join to share a meal. (Bonus: This book also teaches young readers the days of the week!)
Exaggerated humor and clever rhymes make this book a kid favorite. A little boy sits at the table and proclaims, “I am hungry!” The problem? Everything placed on the table simply won’t do—he deems it too wrinkly, too squishy, too fruity or too fishy, though his furry friend and sidekick is eager to sample it all. Even dessert doesn’t suit the boy’s taste. At the very end, he eats something and responds, “So yummy! All done,” which, of course, makes the reader wonder if he would’ve been just as pleased with the many other options.
Picky eater books for kids
Frances the badger insists on eating only bread and jam. Her ultimate dream comes true when her parents decide she’ll have bread and jam for every meal. But wait a minute…bread and jam all the time? Things turn out to be not exactly what Frances had in mind, and she comes to realize that variety is actually a good thing.
Taking a more facts-based approach, this book (written by food critic Joshua David Stein) informs kids about food, where it comes from and how it tastes. Each page features a different question, ranging from “Do eggs grow on eggplants?” to “Can you eat a sea urchin?” The illustrations are whimsical and cute, and there’s a healthy dose of humor to keep kids entertained.
Mo Willems’ beloved Elephant and Piggie are back, and this time, they’re in the kitchen. Piggie has whipped up a delicious meal: slop. It’s green with flies buzzing around it, which makes it less than appealing to Gerald. Piggie is quite excited for her friend to have a bite, but Gerald, stubborn as ever, refuses to try it. Finally, he changes his mind (mostly to make Piggie feel better). What happens next is magical—and shows kids that trying something new can be an unexpected delight.
This story turns the tables on “I don’t want to eat that,” making the meal the thing that doesn’t want to be eaten. A little boy, Banjo, is very hungry, but Melvin, a sausage on Banjo’s plate, decides to make a quick getaway instead. A fast-paced chase ensues, and Melvin takes the fork, knife, plate, chair, table and more with him for the ride. Down the street and around the park they go, leaving hungry Banjo to try his best to catch them.
The sequel to “Can I Eat That?” encourages kids to learn more about food preparation and the ingredients that go into their meals. From global foods to cookbook vocabulary, each page asks a question and answers it in a playful, humorous way, with stylized illustrations that are simple yet fun.
By introducing a couple of these helpful and entertaining books, you can inspire your kids to approach mealtime in a whole new way. Happy reading—and eating!