It’s super helpful to understand why your children only want the same foods. It’s also great to have some useful tools for getting those picky kids to widen their palate.
You can probably relate to this. You offer your child something new to taste and they tell you right away that it’s yucky, gross, and they don’t like it. You roll your eyes, sigh, wonder what will be with this kid and offer them a yogurt or piece of plain bread instead. You breathe a sigh of relief that at least they are eating something.
Well, I’m here to say, all hope is not lost! Through my work as a feeding therapist and specialist I have learned that there are a few reasons why children won’t even taste a new food and simple strategies you can use to help them.
1. Children can be fearful of food. The first time they see a new food, it is unfamiliar to them and they are likely worried how it will taste or feel. Children crave predictability, it makes them feel safe. That’s why children can eat the same food every single day. The less the food changes, the more they prefer that food. That’s why processed food is king. It’s always the same color, shape, flavor and texture. There are some opportune times to offer a child a new food to taste, in a way that the child will feel safe to try it. For example: when a parent is eating it (especially if it’s mom and she just sat down for the first meal of the day)
- when it’s from the parent’s plate
- when other children are eating it.
2. Children need exposure. If I got a penny every time I heard a parent say, “I don’t even offer anymore. I know he is not going to eat it,” my piggy bank would be very full. It can get so frustrating that we just revert to offering the same old and accept the status quo. The thing is, if we stop offering new food, for sure our children won’t taste it! It’s important for children to see new food often. So:
- put it in their lunch box
- serve it as part of a meal
- offer it as a choice for snack
- keep a few new foods in the house every week and offer something different as an option every day. You can start with food others in the house are already eating and offer just a small amount to decrease waste.
3. Children need to interact with food. Most parents are used to telling children not to play with their food. They don’t want food wasted or messy mealtimes. But, here’s the thing, the mouth and tongue are very sensitive. So it makes sense for children to hesitate to put things in their mouth if they are not sure it will be a pleasant experience. Children need to learn about a food before they taste it. They need to be prepared and to have an idea what to expect. This learning happens through interacting with food. This can be by:
- playing with food
- helping prepare food
- describing the food using their other senses. The more children see, smell and touch food the more likely they are to taste it.
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