Worried that if you Unleash Your Toddler’s Inner Food Critic you’ll create an I-Don’t-Like-It monster?

I understand.  But there’s no need to fear the food critic.  It will actually help to nix your child’s negativity.

  • Giving your child a chance to talk about the food you’re offering can’t make him think things he hasn’t thought before.  It can only help him articulate what he’s thinking.
  • The more you know about your child’s thoughts, the more information you’ll have to shape new food experiences so they’re less challenging.
  • Getting your child in the habit of truly considering new foods breaks the habit of the knee-jerk rejection.

If you have ever had a kid say, “I don’t like it” before the food actually touched her tongue or heard her say, “Yum” to something just because you did, then you know it’s your toddler’s brain – not her taste buds – that’s really running the show.

Nix the Negativity 1: Ask your child to sample a small amount of food.

How small a sample? Take a pea.  Cut it in half.  Then cut it in half again. Now you’ve got a toddler-sized taste that won’t intimidate. (Don’t be surprised if your child can’t actually taste such a small morsel, but that makes the experience even safer. Next time she’ll probably ask for a larger bite.)

Nix the Negativity 2: Ask your child to roll the food around in her mouth and then to choose whether to spit it out or to swallow it. Never ask your child to eat a new food.

Spitting instead of swallowing gives kids the courage to try. (And it prepares them to become wine connoisseurs when they grow up!)

Nix the Negativity 3: Create conversation without letting your critic get critical.  Never ask your child if he likes something.  Instead ask him to describe what he tastes, sees, and experiences.

Look to elicit both positive and negative observations with the following questions:

Questions about taste:

  • Is the food salty, sweet or spicy?
  • Is it tart like a lemon?
  • Does it taste like anything you’ve ever tasted before?
  • Does the food have a strong flavor or a mild flavor?

Questions about texture:

  • Is the food crunchy?
  • Is it easy or difficult to chew?
  • Does the food feel smooth, or is it lumpy?
  • Does it break into a zillion little pieces in your mouth?
  • Does your mouth feel dry as you chew?

Questions about appearance:

  • What color is the food?
  • Is the food bright or dark?
  • Is it pretty or does the food look weird?
  • Does the way the food look remind you of something? What is it?

Questions about temperature:

  • Does the food feel really hot or only kind of hot?
  • Does the food feel like the same temperature as your mouth?
  • Does it feel cool or really cold?

Questions about aroma:

  • Is the food very smelly, kind of smelly, or not at all smelly?
  • Does the smell make you want to eat it?
  • Does the smell make you think of other foods (like bakery smells make you think of bread and cookies)?

Help your child develop the habit of talking about food in a sophisticated way. It will open the door to new foods so he’ll actually consider eating some in the very near future. I promise.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~