If you have read my post about teaching variation, you know I think it is very important to teach our kids to eat a great variety of different types of food. I came up with 7 main reasons why. I described a first way of working on teaching the kids variation in my apple post. Simply introduce more variation in the way you prepare and serve completely accepted types of food. If you do this on a regular basis, you are preparing them to become even more adventurous with their food. They will more easily try things they haven’t eaten before. Trying new things is something you can learn, something that you children can learn as well. Eventually it becomes a habit, something very natural.
Now, it is not because your children taste something or give a new type of food a chance that they will like it from the first time. To learn to eat new things, kids sometimes need to try 10 to 20 times. If you don’t want your kids to sit at the table in front of their plates with a very sad face and a hungry tummy, you might want to try the taster plates like we do.
The idea behind these taster plates with teeny weeny tiny little bites of the new types of food is this: Nobody likes to be forced to eat something they don’t want. The reason they don’t want to try can be that the food offered it is too new, or maybe they have tried it before and they didn’t like it, or just because they think they won’t like it. We all, and children are no different, want to decide for ourselves what goes in our mouth. Putting pressure on a kid to eat something or even to try something they don’t want won’t do much good. On the contrary, too much pressure may put them off of that food for a long time.
I think it is much better to lower the threshold to eat something new as much as possible. Make it easy for your child. That is why the taster plates have those tiny little bits on them, little tasters of things that are unknown or not very popular. Ask your children to try those little bits. Depending how hard they find this, allow them to even just touch with their hands, maybe smell, rub it on their nose. If all that goes well, try to touch the lips with the food and even the tongue. Spitting the food out is absolutely fine in this case, swallowing is great and liking the food is the winner!
You want to challenge them, they decide for themselves how far they will take the challenge. You can decide how much you challenge them depending on the age, the mood, the tiredness and the sense of cooperation. Tasting new things naturally becomes easier from the age of 6 onwards, so you can usually challenge kids of 6 and above a bit more. Although I haven’t got extremely picky eaters, they can be quite picky, I am pretty sure this idea should work with really picky eaters as well, simply because they are in control and the threshold is so low. Do remember to praise with any amount of succes. Make it a happy little challenge. You may need to try a few times before they go along with the idea, don’t give up straightaway, give them a chance, be patient and then praise when it works.
In our home it works really good, the children feel very much challenged. They almost see it as a competition between me and them and also amongst each other. They assume I give them something they don’t like and love to prove me wrong. I never see this sort of behaviour when they have their plates full with the same type of food! But with these tiny little bites on the taster plates they feel strong and brave. You should see how proud they are when they have eaten something that I challenged them with! I can see twinkeling eyes all over the place!
On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will eat these types of food in a normal portion the next day. Sometimes they do, but usually it takes more time than that. That is why I repeat the same types of food on the taster plates a few times. They would say to me then: You know I eat that already, mummy! So I just say I made it a little bit easier for them then and add something harder next to it. It makes them feel proud and it is yet another taste session of that first type of food to get more used to it. The more they are used to eat, the bigger the portion becomes on a real meal. You can also slowly increase the size of the bites on the taster plate.
My kids even ask me for new taster plates. Even more, I get suggestions about what they want on it! For example my son, after he had learned to eat uncooked spinach and cherry tomatoes in this way, he asked: I want to learn to eat cucumber now, then I can eat salade in school. I am pretty sure that was because the he would need to eat some of the other vegetables from his school lunch. Nevertheless, I thought this was a very positive result, he had his own reason to learn to eat new types of vegetables.
Do you have a picky eater at home, or do you just want to expand the range of types of foods your kids enjoy? Why don’t you have a go with these taster plates too, your kids may surprise you. I can’t wait to hear all about it!