Have you noticed that there are foods you did not like to try when you were little, but you enjoy them now as an adult? I have a few different foods that I vividly remember “hating” when I was little, but I love them now.
Perhaps the issue was that I just didn’t try them enough times!
If I said I didn’t like something, I remember my grandma saying, “Well try it again – you may find you like it this time.”
It turns out, there is some truth behind that old saying!
Yes, there is actually a certain number of times we have to “try” a food before our brains decide if we like it or not! I know for a fact that the things I “didn’t like” as a child – I had only tasted them maybe once or twice.
How many times do we have to try it, then?!
The truth is, it takes at least ten actual tries of a food – putting it in our mouths, giving it a few chews, and tasting it – for us to decide if we like it or not. TEN times!
I know I was surprised at that. I thought for sure that two or three times would be sufficient.
Yes, there is a lot of work that goes into actually getting your child to try a new food. Our munchkins can be pretty adamant and convincing about not liking something.
But it is important to not give up too soon!
Of course, there are items that they honest to goodness will not like, no matter how many times they try it. That’s just their preference – they just simply do not like it.
Since we want to make sure we are giving each food a fair shot, I have some tips for you to help you get the full ten tries in – over time of course.
Tip #1: If other people like it…
Family-style meals are beneficial for multiple reasons.
All that means is that the adult sits down during a meal with the child and they eat together. You can read a little more on that in this post.
If you’ve ever been to an amusement park, you probably scoped out all of the rides and roller coasters before deciding which ones you wanted to ride.
You watch what the roller coaster does, how it rides, and how the people on it react. Then you make the decision on if you want to ride it yourself!
Our little munchkins see everything!
It’s that same feeling as us watching the roller coasters. Our children are constantly observing and learning from us. When they watch us eat, part of their subconscious is processing information from that.
This allows them to build familiarity with new foods and also tips them off for what to expect with the food. I always tell my clients to be aware of the reactions they have as they eat.
Smile throughout your meal! Be relaxed; visibly enjoy your food. Talk out loud about what the food feels like – cold, mushy, crunchy, grainy, sweet, savory, etc.
Once you get in the habit of this, it’s such a simple thing to do! And it is so helpful for your little one.
Tip #2: Get them involved with the food
I think it goes without saying that kids love to be included. Even better, most of them love having special little jobs to do. Yes, sometimes this means more work for us ;).
But age-appropriate tasks can be so beneficial for our munchkins. Stirring, measuring, mixing things together, getting items from cupboards, pouring, gathering ingredients, washing fruits and vegetables, drying them, etc.
And then at the table, have them serve your plate or pass containers to you. They feel involved and invested in the meal, and really, who doesn’t like to be included?
This will also provide some nice extra exposure to the foods. They’ve handled it, they’ve seen it prepared, and they are more familiar with it now.
Tip #3: P L A Y I N G with food
I know it’s probably been drilled into your brain: “Don’t play with your food!”
But really – why not?! It’s totally fine to play a little and have fun. You’ll have to get over the fact that it will make a mess. Just accept it 😉
This is a great way to start slow and work up to actually trying the food.
Maybe you are playing army men, and getting the soldiers to climb to the top of the mountain. You can take your asparagus (or other food) and “march” it up to the top of your head.
Then, the soldiers may need to slide down the mountain and into a cave! Quick! You can slide the asparagus down and into your mouth.
You may get a little messy, it may take a few tries over time, and you may feel silly. But it’s okay! Just have fun with it! In the end, your kiddos will probably gain some great memories of mealtimes.
Make sure you watch my Facebook live (below) for a more in-depth example of this playtime exercise!
Extra tip: “I don’t like it” special circumstances
For kids going through a cognitive leap (ages 2-3, 5-7, 9-11), eating can be even more difficult to manage with all the changes they are experiencing.
For children with sensory issues, it can also take more time.
There are 32 steps to eating, and each builds on the other. For example, can the child tolerate playing with food with their hands?
If not, you are working on them being able to tolerate touching the food with their hands first. Then slowly work your way up to smelling it.
That’s okay to take your time with it and follow your child’s cues. You want to push them a little, but back off when you notice them getting apprehensive.
For example, if they don’t like the army men going on top of their head, go back to playing with that food on the table for that meal.
Just keep trying!
You can always test something again later on in the meal and see how they react.
Maybe they will feel a tad better and tolerate it more. At the next meal try it again, and see how it goes.
Little by little, they will be able to tolerate it closer and closer to their mouth. You can see how success happens over time.
If you need more play ideas, or some encouragement, head over to our Facebook group, Baby and Kids Holistic Nutrition. I love answering questions!
P.S. If you are at the point of starting solids with your baby, definitely check out my brand new, self-paced version of my course, Baby’s First Bites. To celebrate the launch, it’s on sale right now! Snag it right here!