Gretchen L. Hofing, Michigan State University Extension
Young children can be known as “picky” eaters. They may go on food jags, when they’ll eat only a few specific things. As the adults in these preschooler’s lives it is important to persevere. Keep exposing them to new foods. You can put them on the table, put a small amount on their plate, talk about how much you’re enjoying it, describe what it tastes like, and comment on the colors. Just don’t force them to eat anything.
Getting kids involved with cooking and food preparation is key to nurturing an interest in trying new foods. This can start as young as two years old. A two year old child can rip lettuce or stir ingredients which also helps them work on small motor skills. Make it a special privilege to help choose a new food for the week. Have kids help pick out produce at the store and then prepare it, even if it’s just washing the grapes. If they have had a say in what food to eat and/or preparing it, they’re much more likely to try it. Also, realize that it may take as many as 12 exposures to a new food before a child will decide to actually eat it. Don’t give up – be a good role model. After all, in the end they want to be just like you.
Think about new ways to introduce foods. Books could be one method. For example, choose children’s books that feature healthy foods. Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet which has many colorful illustrations of fruits and vegetables. Yoko, by Rosemary Wells, addresses trying new foods. Sing songs and do dances about new foods. Here’s a quick, funvideo about making and eating fruit salad to view and sing together.
Whether you already feel like you’re doing a great job or you’ve got some real questions, the preschooler section of MyPlate can provide you with affirmation and information through a wealth of resources.