Tips for Camping With a picky Eater
It’s summertime and parents are asking me for advice about taking their picky eater camping. Getting picky eaters to eat in the feeding clinic or their own home can be challenging enough, when you add preparing, cooking, cleaning and eating outdoors you have another set of challenges!
Here are a few tips:
S’mores: Camping and s’mores go hand-in-hand and kids love to make their own treat! Before they set their marshmallow on fire, start a conversation about texture. Do they want their marshmallow burnt and crispy (like I do) or soft and slightly toasted? Are they willing to try a unique “style” of s’mores? You can do this by using different marshmallow colors (white, pink, yellow) or sizes (mini, regular, jumbo). You can also exchange the traditional chocolate bar for another type of meltable candy bar. I’ve even switched the customary graham cracker for a gluten-free cookie! Picky eaters will be singing around the campfire “…more s’mores!”
Snacks & Meals: Camp food can be fun for us, but a picky eater might have difficultly handling the novelty of camp cuisine! Prepare in advance to have some of their favorite to-go snacks and at least one ‘for sure’ meal for each day you are camping. Pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, hot dogs and PB&J are easy to prep meals and common favorites for hesitant eaters. Try to keep meals on the same time schedule you have at home in order to capitalize on their hunger sensation when trying new camping grub. And don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to cook, since cooking over the campfire or on a camp stove can take more time.
Sensory: Going camping and being in the wild may challenge your picky eater’s senses. The smell of burning wood, the taste of gooey marshmallows, the visual beauty of the outdoors, feeling the warmth of a cozy fire and hearing all the different nature sounds can be overwhelming for some kids. Try to bring some of their favorite sensory friends like their beloved stuffed animal, preferred plate (like the Happy Mat), favorite crunchy snack or a comfy outfit. A few of my clients have chosen to wear their Halloween superhero costumes to face the new encounters of camping life!
Store: Make sure you place all food in bear-proof containers or store them appropriately for the territory you are in. This will keep your picky eater’s favorite foods out of the hands (or paws!) of others.
Supplementary: Camping is a great way to introduce some novel feeding habits. Have your kids cook hot dogs or marshmallows with roasting forks (they have multiple tongs to cook several items at once). Try eating by flashlight, lantern or headlamp. Or, have bedtime snacks under the stars!
Making mealtime fun around the dinner table or the campfire is the first step in shifting their picky patterns. I’d love to hear what other suggestions you have to help our picky eaters succeed in their outdoor eating adventures!