Many children go through a stage of refusing to try new foods. In fact, it’s part of a normal childhood development stage (called neophobia) where children develop a fear of new things, in this case food.
Fussiness and the aversion to try new foods tends to peak between the age of 2–6 years. And even children previously thought of as “good eaters” can start rejecting any new food and even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed.
But there may be an answer….a study carried out by psychologists at the University of Reading found that exposure to pictures of fruits and vegetable could be key to encouraging preschoolers to sample new tastes.
This was done by showing the children books and images of fruit not familiar to them, such as lychees. The toddlers then took part in ‘a willingness to taste test’ where overall, the children were more interested in tasting unfamiliar foods if they had previously seen pictures of them in books.
In real life, you don’t just need to stick to pictures in books…take a look at our top tips for encouraging your child to try new foods.
A child may need 10–15 tastes of a new food to develop a liking for it so don’t give up after a few attempts. And every time they see the new food they become more familiar with it. Start with small quantities alongside old favorites and encourage them to just have a small bite or taste.
Encourage but don’t pressurize
Try to encourage your child to try a new food but don’t overly pressure them. Praise them when they try something new and accept it if they say they don’t like it. Try again with the same item another day.
Give children a choice
Encourage healthy eating by having a fruit bowl somewhere accessible. Try and vary the fruit so children become to used to seeing different types of fruit and have a variety to chose from. Let your child chose a new fruit or vegetable at the supermarket and chat about where it comes from. Again the more familiar they become, the more likely they are to eventually eat it!
Set a good example
Try and set a good example. If children see that their parents enjoy trying new foods, they are more likely to try the food themselves. If round at friends or at a restaurant, encourage your child to have a bite of your food if it’s something new to them.
Get children involved
Involving children in food preparation may also increase their willingness to try new foods. Try some of our savoury cooking with kids recipes. Also think about growing vegetables in the garden or pots.
Make it look familiar
Try serving new foods in a similar way to old favourites. So, for example, if one of their favourites meals is chicken in a creamy sauce try serving fish in the same creamy sauce. Or if they enjoy eating chips, try sweet potato chips instead. The more familiar they are, the more likely they are to try it.