FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES



mumsnet

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to food as extremely big characters.  In fact, some estimates now suggest that around 50% of children will be identified as ‘fussy’ at some point.

And here’s one of the main reasons why…

At around 18 months it is extremely common for children to develop a degree of what psychologists refer to as neophobia, fear of new foods.   It is thought to be the remnants of a survival instinct to keep newly mobile neanderthal toddler safe from eating new foods such as berries that could potentially have been poisonous.

So, they are not being stubborn but just protecting themselves – and as annoying as it is, it’s also pretty clever!

Some of the forms that neophobia can take include refusal of any food that:

>> They have not been seen before

>> They have had before but that looks slightly different e.g. different packaging, different type or shape cracker, different colour jelly

>> Looks like something they tasted once and disliked

>> Is broken (e.g. biscuit) or has black or brown specks in it e.g. Burnt toast or banana seeds

>> Is mixed together so they can’t see what it is made up of

>> Is touching or contaminated by a food that they don’t like

>> Looks like something disgusting e.g. spaghetti because it looks like worms or I remember my son refusing to eat a rice cake because he could ‘see’ a spider in it.

So when you understand WHY this behaviour is happening and that your child is not being ‘difficult’ but is genuinely afraid and unable to explain or understand it themselves, it makes it a LITTLE easier to tolerate!

The good news is that these fears tend to pass by around age 6.

The bad news is that if we are unprepared for this stage and are unsure how to handle it, we can easily make it worse and BECOME a longer-term problem.  This is particularly the case if it causes significant parental tension and stress and the child starts to feel controlled or to associate strong emotions with mealtimes or particular foods.

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

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TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

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The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
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Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
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DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?



mumsnet

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD’S FUSSY EATING?

Please don’t.

I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else’s children eat everything and yours just won’t.

But it’s really not true – limited food choice is extremely common in young children

AND

It could also be that your child just has a very different innate temperament to other children. In particular, if they are naturally more cautious and/or sensitive, this can make eating very challenging for them. Different textures and unfamiliar foods can be quite overwhelming, and the fear of these new foods can quickly become habitual and result in very rigid eating.

Some children have even been found to be ‘supertasters’ in that they have extra sensitive taste receptors and so they experience food in a very intense way.

So if this is the case, one of the most helpful things you can do is to lower your standards. As long as your child is physically well and not losing significant weight, try your hardest to trust that they will broaden their food repertoire in their own time.

And the key to supporting them with this is the way you respond:

>>> Never force or coerce them to eat something, I promise you, it just doesn’t work for the long-term.

>>> Respect their individual differences and likes and dislikes. It’s okay not to like everything, and some children (and adults) are just not that bothered about food or variety.

>>> Cultivate empathy rather than frustration. I KNOW this is hard, but it can help if you view them as being genuinely scared rather than testing. New foods to them are akin to us being offered a plate of stir-fried live tarantulas.  Seriously!

>>> Cautious children also have a greater need to be prepared and feel in control. So, things like having a weekly menu up so they know what to expect for dinner each night, and allowing them to serve themselves, can help a lot.

So tell me about your children – how much do you think temperament plays a part in their eating habits?

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

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Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

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Read More

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DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

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Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

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"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

HOW NOT TO POTTY TRAIN

I suspect that one of the problems for the old woman who lived in a shoe (and perhaps one of many reasons why her children were so unhappy and unruly), was that once she’d found a couple of approaches that worked with the first few of her children, she assumed it would work for all of them.

Forgetting, of course, (or probably more like not having a single second to think straight) that each child comes to us with a unique temperament and so needs to be parented equally uniquely.  The more she tried to impose her one-sized-fits-all parenting on all her children, the more misunderstood and disconnected these children became.  As the children’s behaviour became increasingly defiant and off-track, the poor woman was so overwhelmed and fed-up that she felt her only resort was to whip them.

And so it has been with potty training my children.  Well no, of course not exactly like this, and not the whipping bit, I promise!  But in the sense that with my third I felt confident that I knew the score, knew what worked, and having ‘done it’ twice before felt very relaxed about it.  I trusted that once he was displaying the much discussed ‘signs’ or readiness it would be a smooth ride from there on in.

Forgetting though that he is a very different character from his siblings.

Forgetting that he can be super, super sensitive – and particularly so in terms of interpreting the nuances of emotional expression.

So, when one day at around the age of two and a half he started to show an interest and willingness to sit on the potty I just assumed we were away and that within a week or so we’d be a nappy-free household.

There he solemnly sat on the ever-so-slightly grimy, third-hand potty with excited spectators all around, eagerly anticipating what would be produced.

Finally, up he jumped, potty hanging off his backside, saying “Did it mummy!”  I prised the plastic from his red-ringed bottom and we all peered in.

And there inside was the teeniest, tiniest wee, about the size of a 50 pence piece – but the cue, nonetheless, for us all to go ever-so-slightly-over-the-top-excited!  Well, particularly me, I guess, and his brother and sister were just following my lead.  Exaggerated praise, kisses, high-fives – and his sister was soon rushing downstairs to find some stickers for him!

Unsurprisingly, the poor boy was quickly overwhelmed and his smiles very soon turned to bewilderment.  By the time his sister was back upstairs again with her ‘rewards’ he’d scooted out of the bathroom and into his room to play by himself.  He wanted nothing to do with the stickers and nothing to do with emptying the potty out or flushing it away.

And who can blame him??  He knew perfectly well that none of these shenanigans happen for anyone else in the household.  There he was merely modelling a perfectly ordinary daily occurrence and suddenly everyone went straight-up, cracker-jack barmy.  He was most bemused by our bizarre behaviour, and unsurprisingly given his nature, it also made him feel overwhelmed and anxious.

Unfortunately, the next evening, I managed to inadvertently add to his anxiety.  He was happily playing in the bath, and then looked up and said, “Mummy I’m doing a poo poo”.  Instead of calmly asking if he’d like to get out of the bath and do it in the potty, without saying a word I whipped him out and unceremoniously dumped him on it.  With practically the same urgency as if he’d told me there was a crocodile in the bath.  I know, I know, jeez, what on earth was I thinking, why the irrational switch to crisis mode??

In hindsight, it is very easy to see why these were his first and last attempts at potty training for a good six months more!   He adamantly refused to go near the potty or toilet and it was very evident that he needed some space and time to process and heal the anxiety I had stirred up.

After this realisation, I was careful to rarely mention the potty again to him, apart from occasionally breezily saying things like, “Yes, Tommy is using the potty isn’t he? When you’re ready, I know that you’ll do that too”.  And sure enough, one day when he was nearly 37 months he didn’t want to put his nappy on.  He willingly put on pants and took himself to sit on the big toilet.

I can’t tell you how heedful I was to act nonchalant and there was definitely no clapping or stickers!   A week later we went on a very long car-trip and there wasn’t a nappy or plastic bag to sit on in sight.  No constant asking/reminding, obsessive checking for wet patches, insistence he went before getting in the car.  He’d made the decision himself, completely ‘got it’ and as a result it ended up being a very simple and stress-free transition.

It obviously wasn’t a period of parenting where I covered myself in much glory.  But as is often the case, on reflection, it taught me a lot.  In particular, it reinforced the importance of being respectful towards my kids, treating them as unique individuals and adapting my parenting accordingly.  Something I thought I was aware of and doing, but actually in this case most definitely wasn’t!

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17) A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

FLEXIBILITY IS ONE OF YOUR BEST MEALTIME FRIENDS

I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information.  I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #3: YOU NEED TO MAKE FOOD MORE EXCITING & TRY SPECIAL RECIPES

You've seen these websites and resources, right? The ones that are aimed at helping you with your fussy eater that focus predominantly on recipes...recipes that even the fussiest of fussy eaters are allegedly 'guaranteed' to eat. Except even after you spend ages...
Read More

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)...and they do it anyway. And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each. THIS I find mega frustrating. And...
Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

WHEN THEY DON’T EAT WHAT YOU KNOW THEY LIKE…

"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

SUPPORTING YOUR SENSITIVE CHILD: 5 PRACTICAL TIPS

My three-year-old is very sensitive.  I wouldn’t go as far as highly sensitive, a bit too early to conclude that yet for him I think.

But he’s definitely very sensitive.  He is astonishingly aware and has been since he was a baby.  He has an intuitive understanding of feelings, both his own and other people’s, and he processes the vibe or atmosphere in a room almost immediately.

This is great in lots of ways.  He knows if someone loves him, he knows if someone likes him.  He knows if he is genuinely being amusing or entertaining.  And he knows if someone sincerely wants to connect or play with him.

But he also knows if he is being laughed at.  If he is being talked about or patronised or disrespected.  He knows if someone is coercing him, or assessing him, or being disingenuous.

In fact, he’s opened my eyes to how many adults feel it’s perfectly okay and ‘normal’ to behave like this towards children.  Including myself too sometimes, to be honest.  Particularly when a child is very quiet, it is disturbingly easy to forget that there’s a fully functioning, intelligent individual inside who deserves as much respect and equality as every adult.

For sensitive children it’s a double whammy; they are hyper aware that these things are occurring, and they are also hyper hurt and distressed by them.  It makes my little boy feel so squirmy and self-conscious and yucky that he often gets an overwhelming urge to to run away and hide.

I worry for him because it adds an extra layer of complexity to an already highly complicated world.  The average person is bombarded daily with a crazy amount of stimulation as it is.  For a child with a highly sensitive nervous system who is attuned to subtleties and deeply processing everything, things can quickly become overwhelming.  And also very frightening.

But I am also grateful that we are living in times where there is a growing awareness and understanding of these things.  We now know that being highly sensitive is a genetic disposition, that is, there is a physiological difference in how the nervous system responds and is wired.

And most importantly, he’ll also understand and know about this from an early age.  He’ll know there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with him and that calls to ‘man-up’ are both unhelpful and misguided.  He’ll hopefully be able to build and focus on the incredible positives of this disposition; characteristics such as intuition, creativity, kindness, empathy and understanding of the needs of others, the list is endless.

And there’s also lots of things that we now know that we parents can do to help ease the path for our sensitive ones.  Below is a list of just some of them.  For more information or help with your sensitive child, please do contact me here.

  1. Choose childcare carefully

Even if you know of a really great day care facility or extra-curricular club that was loved by siblings or friends, bear in mind that it may not necessarily be right for this particular child.  Sensitive children tend to find one-on-one relationships easier to cope with than groups, as there is only one lot of stimulation to navigate and adapt to.  They thrive in warm and nurturing environments and with people who ‘get’ them and are responsive to their needs.

  1. Help make accurate interpretations

Sensitive children can be hyper reactive to criticism and can ‘read into’ situations too much and misconstrue them more negatively than is necessarily the case.  They need both someone to listen to them and validate their feelings (see below), but also a calming objectivity to help them make sense of situations e.g. “Actually Jonny, Grandma wasn’t laughing at you.  She was laughing at something she was watching on the TV behind you.”

  1. Be aware that they may lash out

Younger children, particularly, often resort to mild aggression when they feel overstimulated and overwhelmed.  A soft play or toddler group full of other children, for example, can be a very scary place for a sensitive child, and lashing out may be the only way they can defend against the sheer terror and overwhelm.   Knowing why this is happening is so helpful in guiding how we respond.

If you’ve downloaded your free ‘Betty Brain’ animation [link] you will know that these children are responding from the oldest, reptilian-like part of their brain.  Their limbic system is super reactive to fear and the detection of ‘threats’ – and so their ‘fight-or-fight response is activated very quickly.  Their upstairs brain (access to logic, rational thinking etc.) shuts down and they lash out (fight) to ‘protect’ themselves.  Unfortunately, this is still  not common knowledge and many children displaying this behaviour are misunderstood and punished/reprimanded, which results in more fear and a further spiral of defensive behaviour.

  1. Empathise and Acknowledge

The more you can help them to feel understood and validate their feelings the better.  For example, “Yes, it’s very noisy isn’t it.  It’s hard going somewhere this busy.”  And it’s important to do this from a place of strength and trust that you know they will get through it, you know they will find a way to cope and thrive.

All children are responsive to their parent’s nervous systems, but sensitive children are, of course, highly attuned to them.  For this reason, modelling strength, calm and inner certainty that you know they will be okay is extra important.  If, for example, you are at a party cowering in the corner because you are scared to talk to anyone and are finding it overwhelming, do not be surprised that your child won’t leave your side!  Sensitive children will pick up on even very slight changes in your behaviour or anxiety levels and respond accordingly.

  1. Try not to assume they will be shy or introverted

There’s a fair bit of confusion around these terms and incorrect ‘labelling’ can be pretty damaging (see here).  In particular, it’s helpful to be aware that ‘sensitive’ and ‘introvert’ are often used interchangeably but this is not necessarily the case.  Although many sensitive children are indeed introverts, not all are – and conversely, many introverts are not particularly sensitive.  My son, for example, loves being with other people, gets energy from other people, and is extremely gregarious and fun-loving (he is more towards the extrovert end of the scale).  But only once he’s got to know people, feels comfortable and relaxed and still has full access to his ‘upstairs’ brain (see here).

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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