The Tasting Game - getting toddlers to try new foods

by Lucy Cooke. Encourage your child to try new types of food by making the process fun.

Child eating slice of watermelon

Introduction

Most babies are enthusiastic eaters - happily consuming pretty much everything they are offered but, around the age of two, many children become fussy eaters.

This is completely normal and very common, but it can be very frustrating for parents and carers. These fussy toddlers will only eat a small number of familiar foods and will refuse to try anything new. As a result, mealtimes can become a battleground. Of all the foods that children refuse, the most common are vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fruit.

Vegetables and fruits are a very important part of a healthy diet and because very few children in the UK are meeting the five-a-day guidelines for good health, scientists have been testing lots of different ways to encourage young children to try them.

How CBeebies can help

Have a look at the ‘Big Cook Little Cook’ and ‘I Can Cook’ recipes in the cooking part of the Make & Colour section for loads of great ideas for meals.

Even fussy eaters might be tempted to try some new foods if they are presented in an enticing way. Take a look at the recipes in Big Cook’s Recipe Book, which are particularly imaginative. Fancy trying some Mermaid Soup, a Flower Salad, a Marrow Telescope or a Fishtank Quiche?

How to make a magic moment

Play the Tasting Game!

When you are at the supermarket together, help your child to choose a new food to try. Choose something that can be eaten raw so that you won’t have to do any extra cooking, e.g. red pepper, sugarsnap peas or cucumber.

Show the food to your child at snack time, cut off a tiny piece (about the size of a 5p coin) and ask him or her to taste it without any seasonings or dressings. It’s important that they actually taste it, but it doesn’t matter if they spit it out the first few times. If they do taste the food, give them lots of praise. If they refuse that day, don’t get cross - just say you’ll play again the next day. The important thing is to keep trying.

Repeat every day for 14 days, using the same food. After 14 days, you can start again with another new food.

Extra information

The Tasting Game will encourage your child to try new foods by making the process fun. Most people give up if their child rejects a food two or three times but research has shown that, after tasting a new vegetable at least 10 times, even the most reluctant children like it more and will eat much more of it.

The Tasting Game will help you to encourage your child to eat more vegetables, but you could this technique for fruit or any kind of food that is a problem.

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Top tips

  • Offer tiny pieces at first.Try the food yourself to encourage your child to do the same.Stay calm and don’t get cross if your child doesn’t want to play the Tasting Game that day.Don’t give up. If your child refuses to taste, try again tomorrow.Keep going until your child has tasted the new food 10 times.

Expert opinion

One of the most important things for children is familiarity. The more familiar a food is, the more likely it is that a child will like it. Giving children plenty of opportunities to try lots of different foods is a step on the way to a healthier diet for life.

Dr Lucy Cooke, Psychologist (specialising in children’s eating behaviour)

Parent's tale

I find kids often will eat more if there is a group of children. I often find that when a child comes round for tea they’ll eat more than their mum says they do.

Sally (mother of two), From Manchester

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