Kids & Company Blog

See what Emma’s eating? The positive impact of eating with peers

Say the words “picky eater” and you may get strong reactions. Some parents will tell you woefully how their child will only eat white food while others report that Junior has the palate of Julia Child. At some point, most parents deal with a child who is resistant to new foods. Yes, you do hear of those culinary unicorns who are willing to try all foods, regardless of texture, colour or smell, but most good eaters are made, not born that way.

One of the most impactful ways to encourage diverse eating habits is to have your child eat with other children. Whether you choose to call it peer modeling or a positive spin on peer pressure, when a child sees other kids eat new, diverse foods, he or she is more likely to try it. This is one of the reasons we really like Family Style Dining at Kids & Company – students serve themselves and are much more willing to try an unfamiliar food if they see other children tasting and enjoying it.

What if your child only eats lots of diverse foods at daycare but not at home? Perhaps she doesn’t go to child care or has gotten choosier as she’s reached school age? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Model eating new foods yourself. Put something new on your plate, then offer the serving bowl to your child. Allow him to serve himself. Don’t draw attention to whether he eats it or not but allow him to observe you eating and enjoying new foods.
  2. Invite friends over for meals or snacks. This is easily done during playdates or even during snacks in the park or playground. Throw in a new fruit, veggie, etc. and offer it to other children. This may pique your child’s interest or he may be too distracted with friends to realize he’s eating something new.
  3. Allow (and encourage) your child to eat at other people’s homes. Unless he/she has true allergies, don’t prep the parents about food choices. Children are more likely to try something new if they are too embarrassed to call attention to the fact they don’t like it or have never tried it. One of my sons routinely turned down Indian food, but after having it at a friend’s home, he declared he loved it.
  4. Serve new foods when your children are very hungry and favorite foods are nowhere in sight.
  5. Remember that as most kids get older, their food choices will naturally expand. Eating meals at school seems to help this process, as does sleep away camp.  Each year, my sons have come home from camp eating several new meals.
  6. Kids cooking shows or books about food may help. Many families report that watching culinary shows like Master Chef Junior has made their children opened to new foods. One of my sons wanted to try lamb shanks after reading the Neil Flambe book series. There are many fun books about cooking and food at all age levels.

Do you have tips on getting kids to try new foods?  What has worked for your family?

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