Every parent can relate – getting children to try, let alone like vegies is hard.
But let’s look at it from a different perspective – where are most children exposed to vegies?
Yep - at the dinner table.
Is dinner the easiest meal of the day? This is a hard “no” for most parents.
Dinner is often the meal that is the most frustrating and difficult for most families.
Children are over tired, parents are over it – so it is not the best time to introduce a new vegetable or to ask your child to try one that they don’t like.
Usually, the vegetable that shows up may not look so appealing (think cooked broccoli) – pair that with the fact that most children do not like bitter tasting foods (this is a natural phenomenon, read more about it here).
Now, you may ask – how do I get my child to eat their vegies?!
The answer is to let your child explore the vegie away from the dinner table in a fun and interactive way.
The aim is fun food interactions using FOOD PLAY.
Just let your child explore, be curious and learn about the vegie.
Now you may have read this far and find yourself thinking - who has time for food play? I hardly have time to cook dinner!
Investing just 10 minutes once or twice a week into food play can help save time at the dinner table. Think how much time you can save if you are not nagging or bribing your child to eat their greens!
Food Play is backed by tons of research to show that when children are exposed to vegies in this way, they are more likely to choose these veggies when it shows up on the dinner table. Read more about the benefits of food play here.
No amount of “eat your greens it will make you big and strong” will get your child to like greens, but “let’s build a tower made of peas” just may do the trick.
We have adopted a "Sunday food play" routine in our home. Every Sunday I choose 2 vegies that I would like my two fussy eaters to learn to like.
This is our simple Food Play routine:
- Set up: Cutting board and Kiddicutter knife .
- 2 Vegies (prepared in age-appropriate way, steamed/chopped etc)
- Cute Eye picks
- Lots of questions and fun!
Now ask questions like
“I wonder if it is the same colour on the inside as on the outside?”
"Can you cut it into 5 pieces?"
“I wonder if it is juicy?”
“Does it have a big or a small smell?”
“Can you balance it on your head?”
"Can you nibble it like a mouse?"
"How many peas can you fit onto this toothpick?"
"Let's make a vegie obstacle course!" Let your child drive a toy car over the veggies.
This all encourages your child to engage and have fun with the food with no pressure to eat it. Removing pressure is key to FOOD PLAY success.
Once this starts to become a predictable part of your routine, watch how your child’s attitude changes.
Food Play moves children from reluctant vegie eaters to being more adventurous and willing to try vegies.
Now that is time well spent!
Reference: Involving children in cooking activities: A potential strategy for directing food choices toward novel foods containing vegetables. Appetite Volume 103, 1 August 2016, Pages 275-285
Our food play activities and advice are aimed at children over 3 years of age. Always seek individual professional advice if you have concerns over your child's fussy eating.