Playing with food is usually not considered a good thing but I think it can be, especially for babies and toddlers that are resistant to trying new foods. It is natural for little ones to be cautious of new things – especially new food. When we let them explore food with all their senses it gives them an opportunity to “get to know” their food and become comfortable with it. It’s natural for them to explore new foods with their eyes, ears, nose and hands before trying a bite. Keep in mind they might spit it out and that is okay too. Training taste buds takes time. The goal is for your child to develop positive feelings and connections with their food.
Of course I’m not suggesting we encourage messy food fights, there is definitely a need for learning table manners as well, I think that food play can be a healthy and normal process of accepting new foods. Perhaps allowing this process to happen might even help prevent some of the picky eating issues that come up as toddlers become preschoolers.
When my daughter was a baby I’d often let her play with food (when we didn’t have a busy day) she would sit in her high chair and have a great time exploring her food. She especially loved avocados, feeling the bumpy texture of the skin with her little fingers, bringing it to her nose to smell it, smearing it around her tray like a painting, it usually ended up all over her face and hands but she loved every minute of it! As much as possible we encouraged her to feed herself so that she would get to explore get to know her food…is was a messy fun filled experience!
For older children it can still be fun to incorporate some fun and play into their food. They can make faces with the food on their plate, use fun cutlery or dishes; perhaps their fruit is served on a popsicle stick there are plenty of ways to make healthy food fun. We want our kids to enjoy healthy food and letting them have a little fun with it once it while really helps. So often “fun food” is synonymous with junk food and it doesn’t have to be that way!
My advice to parents is to let food be an enjoyable learning experience!
- Let your babies explore their food and engage their five senses!
- Give your kids the chance to decide how they want to try a food. If your toddler wants to put together strange combinations of food, let them, they might just come up with something they love!
- Show your kids that healthy foods can be fun and that it’s okay to use their imaginations to come up with cool ways to serve their food.
Having a little fun at mealtimes is a secret to successful food acceptance and to helping your kids develop a positive relationship with healthy food that will last a lifetime. That is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.
What was the first food your little one explored?