As a proud Mama of a VERY ACTIVE toddler, I’ve had a lot of memorable firsts…those first wobbly steps, the first words “Good dog!”, and, the first time my son sat down in a restaurant and fed himself an entire appetizer sized portion of Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Sage Cream Sauce.
Of all of these milestones, I’ll admit that I was just as excited about his eating the ravioli as I was his walking and talking! I’d always hoped that my son would be a mini foodie like me, but, you never really know if your kid’s going to be super adventurous OR super picky! Since that first bowl of Butternut Squash Ravioli, my little boy has tried (and enjoyed!) tons of new dishes. While I don’t have it all figured out just yet, this is what I’ve learned so far about encouraging children to try new foods:
Be a Good Role-Model – Parents, are you always ordering the same meals at restaurants? Or, do you serve the same boring baked chicken dish every Tuesday night? Well, guess what, your children are watching you and there’s a good chance they’ll get stuck in a “food rut” too (e.g. only wanting chicken nuggets or mac ‘n cheese). Be a good role-model and make it a point to try new dishes together whether dining out or cooking at home.
The Two Bite Rule – When it comes to trying new foods, insist that your child try a minimum of two bites of it. If they like it, fantastic, they can always have more. If not, no big deal! They followed your rule, tried a new food, and that’s what ultimately matters! Besides, studies have shown than it sometimes takes a child trying a food 10 to 15 times before they actually grow to like it (so, keep trying!).
Keep Your Dislikes to Yourself – Children are experts at picking up on emotions, therefore it’s super important to keep mealtimes fun! If we act apprehensive or nervous about our children trying new foods, do you think they’ll enjoy them? NO! Just because you don’t like leg of lamb, don’t go on and on about how gamey you think it is (especially if you haven’t tried it in over twenty years!) – allow your kids to decide for themselves what their likes and dislikes are.
Remember What’s Most Important – While it can be super exciting to find out that you and your child share a love for Nicoise olives or crab cakes, making a huge production out of it can often backfire on you! It’s best to let your child know that you’re proud of them for trying the new food (whether they liked it or disliked it!) and promote mealtimes as being an opportunity for the family to sit down together and talk about their day.
Safety First – While we want our children to have a sense of adventure when trying new foods, always use caution with any dishes that are raw (e.g. oysters or sushi) or undercooked (e.g. Hollandaise sauce, egg dishes, some meats). Be aware of any food allergies your child might have and always keep a close eye on them whenever serving shellfish or nuts for the first time.
Mom Thyme Readers, I’d love to hear from you, what are your top tips for getting your kids to branch out and try new foods?
Photo courtesy of Rick Audet/Wikimedia Commons