Introducing Dr. Lucy Cooke, a research psychologist with a focus on children’s eating behavior and an expert advisor for the educational online game, Teach Your Monster: Adventurous Eating.
In this article, we will delve into the world of creative fruit and vegetable exploration, discovering how sensory play can encourage children to embrace a wider range of these nutritious foods. By engaging their senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste, we can make fruits and vegetables more familiar and increase the likelihood of children enjoying and consuming them.
How To Get Creative With Fruit &
Children often approach new foods with caution, but their innate curiosity can be harnessed to overcome picky eating habits. Embracing imaginative techniques is key to capturing their interest and expanding their food preferences.
It doesn’t always have to involve making a silly face out of fruit or sneaking vegetables into sauces. In fact, there are numerous sensory-based games that can be enjoyed outside of mealtimes, providing a fun and engaging way to explore the world of fruits and vegetables.
What do I need?
Gather a variety of fruits and vegetables that you have on hand at home – whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or preserved. Additionally, you will need a chopping board, a knife, and a plate to prepare and present your creations. If possible, consider making a special trip to the supermarket or local food market to enhance the adventure and explore a wider range of produce options.
What are the rules?
Remember your usual mealtime rules don’t apply!
The only rule that applies is that children are not required to eat the fruits or vegetables. Instead, they are encouraged to freely explore, play, and have fun with them in a relaxed and non-pressured environment.
Engaging the Five Senses: Igniting a Love for Fruits and Vegetables
Introduce your child to a vibrant array of fruits and vegetables, creating a visual feast. Arrange a variety of fruits and/or vegetables on a plate and discuss their shapes, colors, and sizes. Explore the inner workings by cutting them in half and observing their unique interiors. Take a trip to your local store or market, encouraging your child to identify and discuss the diverse shapes of different produce.
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The sense of smell significantly impacts our perception of taste, making it a crucial step in cultivating an openness to new flavors. Select a few fruits and vegetables with distinct aromas, such as an orange, banana, carrot, and onion. Chop them into pieces and invite your child to smell them with their eyes closed. Challenge them to identify each one based on its scent.
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Discover the playful side of food exploration by focusing on the sounds they make when cut or chewed. Select soft fruits like bananas and avocados, as well as harder ones like carrots and apples. Observe the different sounds they produce when cut, and if your child is comfortable, ask them to cover their ears and take a bite, identifying the loudest crunch.
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Texture plays a vital role in a child’s acceptance of food, both in their hands and in their mouths. It’s not just about taste, but also the physical sensation. Choose fruits and vegetables with diverse textures, such as a spiky pineapple, a fuzzy peach, a bumpy cauliflower, or a papery mushroom. Feel the outer surfaces of each variety, cut them open, and explore their insides. Encourage your child to describe the textures they experience and express their preferences.
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Taste exposure is key to developing food preferences. Offer small pieces of new foods and if your child doesn’t like something initially, try again on another day. It can take up to 10-14 tries for preferences to change. Select a fruit or vegetable that can be served in different ways—cooked or raw, mashed or whole. Have your child taste and compare both versions, discussing the differences in taste and texture, and noting their preferences.
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