“How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?” is a question almost every parent has asked their child. Kids can be picky and even more so when trying new foods. Maybe it’s the color, the smell, the texture, the time of day you give it to them, or even just the placement on the plate. It can be tough figuring out how to introduce new foods to your kids and get them to keep trying new foods after they’ve tried something they didn’t like. Stressed yet? It’s alright, you shouldn’t be. Let’s explore helpful tips for trying new food.
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There are ways to encourage trying new foods while being understanding when your child does not like something. The idea here is to reinforce the fact that they are testing the new food and let their tastebuds decide if they like it or not.
Playing with Food
Create fun activities for your child with the new food you are trying to introduce. Try making faces with crackers and other food items or ants on a log with celery and raisins. Get creative and make it enjoyable for them to start becoming more comfortable with new foods. Allow them to help prepare the food to make it even more encouraging and fun. You can ask them to wear a cute apron such as this one.
Engaging the 5 Senses when Trying New Food
Engage multiple senses and make it interesting and fun. Have your child smell the new food, look at it, touch it, and taste it (if they’re willing). When you’re engaging the senses, you want them to become comfortable exploring the food. This can be done while playing with the food. You can ask questions and work on communication and descriptive skills, too! This food journal can be a great resource to keep track and get a better idea of what your child likes and dislikes.
Timing is Everything
Be mindful of your timing when introducing a new food. Trying to introduce a new food after your child has eaten or during times they are not hungry, may not be successful. Instead, introduce new foods before a meal or snack.
Taking Small Steps
Taking small steps when introducing new food can be hard since most of us just want kids to try it and see if they like it. Patience is definitely a virtue, here. Paying attention to how your child responds to new foods is going to go a long way.
Here are some steps you can try out:
- Show your child the new food
- Name the food correctly so they can associate the name with how it looks
- Talk about the food
- You can incorporate playing with food and engaging the sense here
- Encourage your child to bring the food to their lips
- Next, encourage them to lick the food
- Then, encourage them to take a bite
- Reinforce along the way
If your child has an exceptionally hard time with new foods, you may want to just place the new food on the table but away from them, so they get more comfortable and slowly bring the plate with the new food closer and closer.
We want to encourage them to continue trying new food and forcing them to eat something after they’ve tried and don’t like it, can discourage that. You can also add in a rule for how many times they need to try something before they say they don’t like it. This can help test out if they really don’t like it or might just be saying that. Whatever the rules are, make sure to establish those beforehand.
Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce
Reward your child for trying new foods and even making the attempt to try new foods. Encouragement can help to continue down the path of trying new foods. The Premack Principle (first, then), where you present something your child may not like as much and follow it with something they do like, can come in handy. Present the new food and provide a preferred food right after they’ve tried the new food. For example, if you are introducing a banana and your child loves cookies, you would present the piece of banana and show them the cookie while saying “first try the banana, and then you can have a cookie”.
Remember, this can and should be modified to meet the needs and age of your child.
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