Home => How To Feed Children => Children's Eating and Growth => How Children Learn to Like New Food
For a young child learning to eat, all foods are new, even those that are very familiar to you. It generally takes children time and repeated neutral exposure to learn to like new food. Neutral exposure is matter-of-factly including the food in family meals and enjoying it yourself without applying outside pressure of any kind.
Make sure you understand normal child eating behavior. Your child will warm up slowly to unfamiliar foods and may have to see, watch you eat, touch or taste a food 15 or 20 (or even more) times before he learns to like it. Even after you child learns to like a food, he won’t eat it every time it is at the meal. He may eat a lot one day, little the next. He is unlikely to eat some of everything that is on the table, but only one or two foods.>
Be patient and persistent, but don't pressure. Children generally need to be offered a food 5 to 20 times - or even more - before they learn to enjoy it. In the meantime, they watch us eat, look, touch, taste and spit out (keep the napkins handy). With very tasty foods, however, they do one-trial learning. High-sugar foods such as cookies and candy are easy to like. So are high-fat foods such as French fries and chicken nuggets. Develop
strategies for using high fat, high sugar foods
and let your child pick and choose from what is on the table.
- Don't limit the menu to foods your child readily accepts, but do have his favorites occasionally. Sometimes he gets lucky, sometimes someone else does.
- Let your child have seconds and thirds on what he likes, even if he ignores the rest - provided he is not eating someone else's share.
- Don't arrange to run out of his favorite foods in order to trick him into eating something you want him to eat.
For more about helping children learn to do well with eating (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's
Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see
to purchase books and to review other resources.
Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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