Happy Eating – How to Help Your Child Try New Foods
- 20 April 2020
- Posted by: CDC
- Category: Parent Tips,
Children often struggle to try new foods and their different flavours and textures. This can create many stresses for families and may make mealtimes far from enjoyable for everyone!
When introducing new flavours and textures at home, it is important to do so slowly, and the process described below can take several days or weeks. The best way is through a process of systematic desensitisation, which allows your child to gradually get used to different and new foods:
- Put the new food onto your child’s plate and allow them to see it. When they are looking at it, take the opportunity to describe the food to them. If having the food on your child’s plate is too overwhelming at first, place it on another plate not so close to them. At first it is enough that they just see it!
- Once your child has got used to seeing it, show them that it is ok to touch the food. Poke it with your finger or squish it with the palm of your hand in a playful manner. The idea is to show them that the food is ‘non-threatening’. At this stage, you can also encourage them to join in with you and to interact with the food. However, it is crucial that you do not force them. They will do it when they are ready – with some children this can take time, so be patient!
- As your child gets used to the new food and is happy to touch or play with it, try and progress it towards the face and mouth. You can hop it up your arm or their arm, onto your shoulders and onto the face! Remember to make it super fun! Your child will get messy and this is ok!
- As you become successful in getting the food near their mouth, children will often use their tongue to ‘test’ the food. You will see that they may spit out the food or even wipe their tongue after they have tried it. Do not be too alarmed, as this is new sensory information and all a part of the developmental process of learning to eat. This may happen for a while until they are comfortable with the new food.
- Hopefully, in the end your child will have taken a bite and even swallowed it!
Some other strategies for successful mealtimes include:
- Passing the food to each other to offer extra opportunities to look at and interact with the food.
- Talking about the food: what it smells like, feels like in your hand or how it tastes.
- Ensure that the food is the focus of mealtime. This is important as toys and smartphones or tablets may distract your child from engaging during meals and from finishing their meal.
- Try to keep mealtimes to around 20 minutes long. A child’s appetite window is actually only between 15 and 20 minutes!
- Aim for smaller portions so that they experience the success of finishing a meal. If your child wants more, they can always have more after their first serving.
Remember to always make mealtimes a lot of fun and as relaxed as possible. This is the only way to help your child explore and enjoy a wider variety of food flavours and textures.
If you have any concerns or would like more ideas regarding the strategies, please feel free to discuss with our therapists.