Experience (and research) tells us that it can take a child at least 20 exposures to a new food to feel comfortable enough to explore and learnt with it – especially for our picky eaters!
So how do we create these exposures in the most fun (and easy) way with a few tantrums as possible!!???
When we are used to our children gagging, spitting, crying, walking-out, pushing away at the sight of a certain food it makes it difficult to think about how that food could ever be one that they actually enjoy! The upset and frustration that comes with this can mean that we stop offering this option for fear of waste, upsetting our children and/or them becoming even more resistant!
There are ways we can be more inventive when we are offering a new or learning food to our picky eaters! It IS possible to increase their comfort in having these foods around and spark their curiosity to stretch them into accepting a new addition!
Remember our job at mealtimes as parents is to offer what to eat, where to eat and when to eat! Our childrens’ job is to decide what to eat and how much!
The magic in the middle can be how the food is presented! By this I don’t mean arranging foods in the shape of their favourite TV character or servicing gormet style! No, No, No! It’s much more simple that that!
The magic is REPETITION WITH VARIETY
As adults we often pair certain foods with one another E.g. we eat peas with fish or beans on toast etc! However, we can create variety that the whole family can eat, with a little extra preparation!
A few examples include:
- Offer the food alongside a food the child likes – and rotate those “like” foods!
- Offer the food with a dip
- Offer the food in a soup
- Offer the food in a different shape – cut differently or mashed
- Offer the food outside of a mealtime
- Offer the food at a different temperature
Offering in different ways provides so much more to talk about! What it looks like, smells like, feels like! Talking in this way takes the pressure OFF eating, reduces our children’s fight/flight/freeze response and paves the way to curiosity!
And once you’ve offered…. Stay calm, stay close and stay consistent! It’s ok if they don’t touch, lick, smell, taste the food today!!! It’s ok if their first step is scraping the portion of the plate or tolerating it at the table on everyone else’s plate!!! They are still interacting with a new food!
20 exposures can feel like FORVER!!! But remember, every time your child has an exposure to a food (without pressure to eat) they are getting one step closer to liking it!
So, for 20 ways to offer beans… Look below
1) In a bowl on their own at the table during a buffet style meal
2) At snack time – with toothpicks
3) At dinner time alongside a favourite food
4) With sauce – tomato ketchup
5) As part of a sensory game actvitiy – blow football
6) Mashed alongside potatoes
7) At snack time – with a “sometimes” food (one they like some of the time)
8) As a bean flavoured crisp/chip e.g. dried out and roasted from the oven
9) As a dip itself – blended into a hummus and served with other dips
10) As part of a sensory game activity – bobbing for beans (pick then out of water alongside other foods or toys)
11) Frozen inside an ice cube as an exploratory activity
12) Cut into halves – either served or do this together
13) At snack time – alongside different “sometimes” foods
14) At dinner time – on a divider plate (so they don’t touch other foods) alongside “sometimes” foods
15) At a lunch picnic – as a “pass me food” – can you pass mummy the beans please
16) As a bean soup (remember they don’t have to eat it! If they just eat the bread and/or dip once that’s still learning!!)
17) On toothpick kebabs – alongside favourite and/or sometimes foods
18) As part of a science experiment – which foods float, which foods sink
19) As just a couple of beans on a divider plate with a sometimes foods
20) At the supermarket – look at different types of beans and have you child choose a tin – remind them they are choosing for everyone and can choose if they eat them or something else.
If these steps don’t work for your picky eater do not despair!!! They may simply need a more structured step by step approach and/or have underlying oral motor and/or sensory issues that are making mealtimes more challenging than they would be for our average picky eaters.
If you would like further advice on how to utilise this strategy and/or how to access a structured plan to support extreme picky eating please get in touch for a free 15 minute consult!