My experience of offering new food to many children in activity classes is that what you say, and how you say it, is crucial. Today’s post is about using the word “try” when offering new food to children.
“Try” is often used by adults when offering children a new or unusual food, typically in a question,”do you want to try it?”, or a suggestion, “just try a little bit”. Consider the situations when adults use this word: when offering a new type of ice cream, or a new type of vegetable? Adults typically use “try” when they don’t believe that the child will eat the food, often with vegetables. Depending on our body language and tone of voice, it can seem like we are pleading with or cajoling the child into eating the food. So by using “try” we are (unintentionally) giving the child permission to say “no” or “I don’t want to”. They don’t even need to see, touch or smell the food to know that they are probably not going to enjoy eating it!
So is there a simple alternative to “try”?
Yes, but this method is not about getting the child to eat the new food as a one-off “take it or leave it” opportunity! The goal is to encourage the child to enjoy eating the new food in the long-term. Here is a script for an adult to use in offering a new food, in this case broccoli, to a young child who already likes to eat chicken and potatoes.
- “I’ve put some broccoli on your plate with the chicken and potatoes.
- You can eat the broccoli if you want to.
- What colour is the broccoli? Do you think it looks like a little tree?
- Can I taste a piece of broccoli from your plate?
- I really like broccoli, it is sweet and crunchy.”
Then the adult lets the child get on with eating their meal.
If the child does taste the broccoli then the adult can ask:
- “What does the broccoli taste like?”
If at the end of the meal the child has not tasted the broccoli then the adult could say:
- “It’s a shame that you didn’t taste the broccoli. Maybe next time.”
So my challenge to you is to stop using “try” and instead use this script, especially if you are a parent struggling with feeding a young child, or a nursery staff member struggling with feeding various children. You should experience a different outcome with regular, consistent use over time. Good luck 🙂