My toddler made me feel like that first year of parenthood was the easy year, and I had a colic baby. If you have, or ever had a toddler, then you know exactly what I mean. Your toddler has probably brought you to your breaking point cause well, that’s toddlers.
One of my big breaking points was food. My toddler was the pickiest eater. People say it takes over 21 times of trying a new food before you like it. At the rate we were moving, my child might like something other than Mac and Cheese by the time she graduates college.
There is nothing more frustrating than preparing meals for your little person and then they refuse to eat any of it!
I finally decided to find someone who could help me. My friend, the expert (also a daycare and preschool teacher for over 30 years) thankfully taught me a fun game that completely changed what my toddler would try in a matter of days.
This simple, yet so smart, game made my toddler think that trying new foods was so much fun.
How Do You Play?
Introduce the game at a family meal like dinnertime and be sure to have everyone play it. Therefore, when it’s your kid’s turn, they can’t wait to partake.
Let’s say the new food is to try a piece of cucumber. Give everyone (parents included) a bite-sized piece. By making it the size of one toddler bite, you increase your chances of them actually eating it (and not spitting it back out).
Now, before starting to eat dinner, say, “Now we get to play the taste game”. Have you and your other half be very excited. Explain that everyone is going to try the same new food. “We are all going to try cucumber and decide what it tastes like.” Have a parent go first. Eat the food make funny faces and describe the taste (cold, kind of crunchy, sour, sweet, etc.).
Remember: fun and silly. Kids love to make silly faces and watch you do the same, so use this to your advantage. Ask questions about taste and texture. Is it sour? Is it crunchy? Also, ask silly questions like does the beet taste pinkalicious or purple-y?
Then ask who is next. Your toddler might decide they want to go next. Another tactic that you can use is when you ask, “Who wants to go next?” and have the other parent overly enthusiastic to go next. Then tell the parent they have to wait because it’s (toddler’s name) turn. This will make your toddler feel very special that it is their turn.
Additionally, this game gives them positive parent attention. You all watch and wait to see what the child decides it tastes like. Feel free to even ask questions. Is it hot? Is it cold?
Lastly, do not force it. You might have to play the game a few times to get your toddler to want to partake. Start with foods they will sometimes eat for you and then once they are really into the game, go for harder ones. If need be, call in the reinforcements. Have the grandparents over and have them play the game with you. If your toddler idolizes an older kid or a friend, then have them play the game too. It is amazing what some peer pressure can do.
Before you know it, they will be eating and trying all kinds of foods. They might even remind you to play the game. My toddler now asks at dinner, “What new food are we trying?”
Why Does It Work?
It might seem like just a game but what you are actually doing is something that you probably do in other aspects of your parenting. With toddlers and little kids, a big part of parenting is helping them understand new experiences and the emotions that come along with it.
This game is the same thing. By playing the game yourself, you are showing them that everyone tries new foods. You are reacting in all types of ways by making funny faces. When kids try a new food and aren’t too sure of the taste or texture, you want them to know a range of responses are okay. Instead of only two outcomes—you either like the food or you don’t—you are teaching them that the right response is whatever they feel.
So simple, but ingenious, because when the goal changes from getting them to like a new food to instead describing it, then it’s okay for it to be anything. Even gross.