My older child has asked that I not call him picky, specifically that I don’t tell my friends or readers that he is picky. It’s a fair request. I wouldn’t want my mom to tell her friends that I’m controlling, cheap, or some other personality trait that is maybe good and maybe bad, depending on the context.
A more positive spin might be to say that he has strong opinions about eating. Like, based on this food’s appearance, I am definitely not going to put it in my mouth.
So, if you have a child with strong opinions about food, you might try this activity: Set up a taste test for comparing foods.
Recently as part of an event for our other website, a hyperlocal Bay Area blog, we hosted an outdoor playdate, sponsored by CLIF Kids.
In order to make the sharing of ZBars more fun, we turned it into a taste test. We encouraged the kids to try bite-sized pieces of the food and vote for their favorite.
I noticed that the kids seemed more interested in experiencing differences because they were voting. I thought about how much they like having their opinions valued. Instead of us pressuring them with bribes, threats, and other tools commonly used by parents (ME!) to convince children to eat, we moms who were running the taste test really didn’t care if they liked grape Zfruits more than cherry Zfruits, and I’m sure our nonchalant attitudes helped make it fun.
I thought, I should give my kids taste tests all the time! I was fantasizing that they would dip chicken into ranch, barbecue sauce, and ketchup, one after the other and report the results. But then I got real, because pigs will fly before one of my kids would put chicken in her mouth — and the other would eat grass before he put a sauce of any kind on his chicken.
BUT MAYBE IT WILL WORK FOR YOU.
Here are some taste tests you could run in your house.
A post on My Small Potatoes details a mom doing a variety of taste tests with her kids. She blindfolded them for extra fun. Spreads on toast sounds like a good warm-up exercise.
Look, kids! Green stuff is not all scary! Grapes are green! (Pro tip: my selective child will not eat cooked peas but will eat these dried peas. They have been a staple snack for us since toddlerhood.) Bonus points for use of muffin tins like B Inspired Mama, who put together the taste test below for St. Patrick’s Day.
Make sure they vote
The whole idea here is that this is an activity in which kids are invited to express their opinions. Unlike the family dinner table, this is a safe space for proclaiming “GROSS!” or “I hated that!”
Give them a way to rank or approve the foods they try. This super simple ballot is from Preschool Alphabet.
Other categories for taste tests to ease into new flavors could be yogurt; cheeses; smoothies; fruit; or just different varieties of apples.
Too lazy for this one? Take your kid to Costco and hope that a taste test has already been set up there.