Why is it that when feeding a baby, we make an aeroplane noise? It’s no longer a spoonful of puréed peas, but a Boeing 737 mid-flight and heading straight for their little mouths. As amusing as it may seem, it often tends to encourage our little ones to obligingly open up and consume their mushy meal. Therefore, it seems that it is ingrained in children to be naturally drawn to food that provides, well, more fun. Just think of alphabetti spaghetti or the infamous potato smiles. Whether it’s rearranging the letters to spell a word or christening the face of a potato with a name and a character, children are eager for anything that excites the mundane, also known as meal-time. However, when the time comes to progress to the otherwise ‘boring’ options, let the dinner-table battles begin.
So, how can you possibly convert every meal into an enjoyable experience for both you and your little one? Enter Samantha Forrest, mum of three from Dublin and business founder of Fussy Food Plates.
What is the Fussy Food Plate? Made from durable, BPA-free plastic, it’s a dinner plate designed to take the mishaps out of mealtimes. The catch? It features a friendly face in its centre that’s crying out to be decorated with all those foods your child refuses to eat. From camouflaging berries as earrings to spaghetti as a beard, the creative possibilities are endless.
Don’t believe us? Take it from Sophie Hinchliffe, also known as @mrshinchhome, writer and beloved influencer known for her tips on cleaning and being a mum. After sharing on her stories “what a brilliant idea” the Fussy Food Plates are and even confessing that she enjoys making them herself, Samantha’s sales exploded and she now has orders from four corners of the globe.
In fact, her local post office even ran out of postal sacks. Since then her success has continued to grow as the word of Fussy Food Plates as a kitchen shelf essential is shared amongst mums and dads.
1. Well Samantha, needless to say it’s been a busy few weeks for you! With the raving review shared by Mrs. Hinch to her 4.7million followers, the surge in Fussy Food Plate orders across the world, and the new release of Press & Pops, did you ever expect this scale of demand for your business venture?
“Thank you so much! To say I have been blown away is an understatement. I am hugely passionate about Fussy Food Plates and the little community it has created. Receiving any feedback is priceless, especially from parents trying every day to make mealtimes more fun. Support from other people keeps me going & especially someone with the status of Mrs Hinch it’s just mind blowing. I still can’t believe it. Sales have increased but it’s more the outpouring of support that holds the real value to me.”
2. And you’re doing all of this while being a full-time busy mum of 3, how are you finding juggling everything and do you have any advice for any fellow mom-trepreneurs?
“I like being busy and I love to plan and execute! I am a very organised person & a big fan of writing lists so every weekend I sit down & write out my schedule for the week & find that really helps. I have a very supportive husband & parents who make this all possible. If I could give one piece of advice I’d say just go for it, what have you got to lose? If you have an idea & are truly passionate don’t let anybody hold you back. I say this with sincerity, if anyone is reading this and wants a chat, reach out., I wish I would have done it sooner.”
3. You’ve mentioned that parents’ “wishes often get in the way of children’s natural desire to constantly explore, be creative, and simply play”, and this is certainly true when it comes to mealtimes. Has a fun-filled dinner always been encouraged in your house, and if so, how have you encouraged it?
“You have to adapt, as a parent every day is a school day. Initially, I wouldn’t have thought it was so important to have a relaxed environment around the table, I thought it was about nailing the dishes and the timings but that is how adults approach food. I soon learned that children can’t draw clean divisions between playtime and mealtime. We were stopping play… to eat and that was problematic. I soon realised that we had to carry the play ethos over to the kitchen area and dinner table. We now encourage food fun by getting creative in the kitchen, involving the kids with meal prep & encouraging them to create fun food faces with their Fussy Food Plates.”
4. What inspired you to go the extra mile and create a product to inspire children to be creative with their food?
“I am not a naturally creative person, for me it was about the process. I would see amazing Picasso mealtime inspiration on my Instagram feed but I lacked the tools and time to replicate these. I thought, there must be a solution to this, something to make things easier for parents who don’t have all the time in the world to create culinary masterpieces four times a day. I realised that I was missing something & there spawned my idea for Fussy Food Plates.”
5. What are some non-negotiables in your food shop to fill your Fussy Food Plates?
“I always ensure we are serving up a protein, carbohydrate & fat. What’s great about Fussy Food Plates is that you can serve your children the food you want them to eat & allow them to create a fun face themselves using their Fussy Food Plate. I also like to include food that they aren’t particularly too keen on. It can take on average 12 times to expose a child to a new food before they may try it. Familiarity is key here.”
6. What are some of yours (and your children’s) favourite meals and faces to serve up on these plates?
“Like every other busy mum out there we don’t have time to be cooking numerous meals for different members of the family so I really try to serve the same meal to everybody. My kids are 5, 4 & 1 so I tend to go for a dish like spaghetti Bolognese. It’s a great dish for your Fussy Food Plate as the spaghetti makes great hair & it’s a dish all the family will eat. We also love salmon, I try & vary it where possible so another great family favourite is salmon nuggets & I serve that with veg & rice.”
7. What are your top tips for introducing new foods into your children’s diets?
“Exposure is key! Children need to become familiar with a food first so I would pick the food you are trying to get them to try & serve it alongside their ‘safe’ ‘familiar’ foods in a small portion. Patience is key & a general rule of thumb is that a child needs to be exposed to a food at least 12 times before they may consider trying it. That’s why Fussy Food Plates is great because the child will be encouraged to touch the food to create a fun food face & before long they will hopefully be tucking in! We’ve had some great wins with tomato & kiwi here using that method.”
8. What is your advice for getting the kids involved in the kitchen?
“It’s all about creating a fun exciting atmosphere. I would start simple, pancakes are a great food to get kids involved, there aren’t too many ingredients, they can be made quite easily & they taste great too. Once they are starting to enjoy being in the kitchen, add in other food prep such as preparing fruit for their lunchboxes. We recently launched a new product called ‘Press & Pops’ which are food shape cutters that come in a variety of fun shapes. By making food into new shapes it again gets kids excited about food. Slicing apples & cutting out fun shapes with our ‘Press & Pops’ always goes down well. Kids love to wash up too so get them involved in the cleaning after.”
9. You mentioned that one of your tips for fussy eaters is to give the food a funny name. Can you share some fun examples with us?
“Again it’s all about creating a fun environment around the table so for example when I serve up chicken nuggets I will call them power nuggets, my boys are superhero obsessed so when they think they will get extra ‘power’ from their chicken they tuck straight in, no objections. Another favourite is ‘Dino fingers’. Again the boys love dinosaurs so when I serve omelette with spinach they devour them. I would just say to pick a character your kid loves & tailor the food you are serving to that character. Who wouldn’t love ‘Peppa Pig Pancakes’ or Sponge Bob Sausages’…”
10. Finally, where can our readers get their hands on the Fussy Food Plate collection?
“You can get the full range on our website www.fussyfoodplates.com“