We often forget that eating is a sensory activity – especially for babies and toddlers because everything still seems so new and exciting. If you want them to take an interest in trying new foods, and to have fun while doing it, encourage them to use all 5 senses when eating. Watch out moms: things are about to get messy!
Make eating fun for kids using the 5 senses: Smell
You know how the smell of bread baking will instantly make your tummy rumble, or remind you of afternoons spent baking with your grandmother? Well, the same thing will happen with your children, they just haven’t gotten familiar with all the smells yet. So, have your children nearby (but safely out of danger) when you’re cooking, and ask them if they like the smells wafting through the air. And when you sit down to a meal, encourage them to have a good sniff of everything on their plate – if the food smells good, they’re far more likely to want to try it!
Make eating fun for kids using the 5 senses: Sight
We all ‘eat with our eyes’ so put a little effort into the way you present your child’s food. Piling loads of food onto a plate may be overwhelming, or even off-putting, for them. Try dishing up little bits at a time and present it in an appealing way. You don’t have to go all out but blueberries, baby tomatoes and slices of cucumber are easily shaped into a smiley face that might convince a picky eater to try something new.
Smart tip: print out (or draw) a rainbow on a piece of paper. Fill each colour of the rainbow with food in the matching hue – so strawberries, cherries and tomatoes for red.
Make eating fun for kids using the 5 senses: Taste
When it comes to food, taste is probably the most important sense, but it can also be what gets the biggest reaction out of kids – believe it or not, spitting and gagging are just a part of getting used to new flavours. Ask them if the lemon is sour or sweet, or if they like the combination of something sweet like fruit paired with something salty.
Not many children start out loving broccoli and Brussels sprouts so don’t be disheartened if they reject it at first – studies have shown that it can take between 10 and 15 exposures before a child feels comfortable enough to try a new food so repeated exposure (and a parent’s patience!) is key.
Make eating fun for kids using the 5 senses: Sound
Even kids who aren’t crazy about raw carrots might like the cruuuuunch sound they make when they bite into them. Let your little one squash puffed cereal between their fingers, or tell them to pay attention to the fizzing sound it makes while dissolving on their tongue.
Make eating fun for kids using the 5 senses: Touch
It might go against everything you were taught as a child, but allow your little one to play with their food! They’ll reap the sensory benefits of running their hands through spaghetti, purees, jelly and raw veggies. They’ll love discovering that kiwi fruit is furry, orange segments are squishy and that banana skins are rubbery. They also need to get used to the different textures on their tongues so try to incorporate a variety of soft, crunchy, crispy, lumpy, hard and sticky textures. Often children develop a dislike for certain textures as they get older and exposing them to different textures early on in the weaning process can help avoid this.
This article was originally written for Squish.