Good food is a complete sensory experience. If your child is having trouble with getting past the barrier to taste at the table, maybe its time to engage all of his other senses long before the dinner bell.
Smell is one of the most important senses. It is, in fact, the primary way we “taste” foods. One of my child’s favorite games from her toddler years is one we still play today. It’s called “Guess the Spice.”
I’ll confess that my spice cabinet could be included in a pantry edition of ‘Hoarders.” There are easily 200 jars of various exotic spices and aromatic herbs stashed in there. Many of those little jars I purchased without a recipe in mind, simply because I loved the smell. A less expensive way to play is to find a good spice store where there are display jars.
My child and I would take turns choosing a spice. The other would have to describe the smell and what we like — or don’t like — about it, then guess what it is. My theory was that if I could expand my child’s sensory palate, her tastes would expand as well. Later, when cooking, I could incorporate some of her favorite spices from the game into our meal.
Other senses are fun to explore together as well. In the grocery produce section or the farmers market, while my child was learning colors, we would play “I Spy.” One of us would “spy” a particular item, then she would name its color. The other one of us would have to figure out what was spied. Together we would go investigate each “spied” fruit or vegetable and learn about each item; what shape is it; what is its name; how does it smell; is it a fruit or a vegetable?
This game is another way to incorporate fun with building food familiarity. When a child is more familiar with a food item, even just by sight or smell or play with a toy version of that item, this familiarity can help reduce a child’s barriers to trying the new food.