Family mealtimes allow for social modeling of our behaviors to expand what our children will eat. Research shows we need at least 10 tries of a food on 10 different occasions to decide if we like it. We can help our children by setting a mealtime routine and exploring foods through all of our senses.
A mealtime will consist of the child and at least one adult. Each mealtime should consist of a protein, starch or carbohydrate, and fruit or vegetable.
Try following these steps to help your child become more comfortable with unfamiliar foods and to help establish a family mealtime routine.
First, transition your child from their current activity to washing their hands to allow for any difficulty in moving away from play to occur with hand washing rather than towards the meal.
Second, transition to the table and allow the child to assist in serving the food to themselves. Each family member should put some of all foods on their plate. If a child does not want to put the item on their plate, provide a small teaching plate near their plate to place these items.
While eating, focus on positive conversations. Talk about how the food tastes, smells, sounds, or feels. Have the child identify how new foods may be similar to a preferred food item.
When your child has completed the meal, return to the teaching plate to explore the novel foods through all senses. The purpose of this is to learn about the food in a safe environment with no pressure to eat a non-preferred food. Praise your child for any interaction with the novel food items.
At the end of the meal, have your child assist with clean-up.
By setting up family meals, a child is given more opportunities to learn about food while parents are providing modeling to eat a variety of foods.