What do our children really want from us? Our attention! I’m guilty of listening to my daughter as I simultaneously take care of my 8-month-old son, answer work emails, post on Instagram, write my blog, cook dinner and answer text messages. I try to carve out time once a week to just disconnect and focus on her. I’ll do her nails, bake a healthy treat, take her somewhere special or do an art project with her. We really could be doing nothing—she’s just happy to get my undivided attention.
If you want your kids to try new vegetables and fruits, take advantage of their desire for your undivided attention and try this activity. After doing it a few times, hopefully you’ll be able to add healthy new produce selections to your usual rotation!
Pick up a kids’ book with colorful illustrations and simple information about fruits and vegetables. One of my favorites is Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert.
Read the book with your child often, and aim to make reading time even more fun by playing guessing games and talking about the fruits and vegetables in the book. Commit to a time just for reading this book, whether it’s once a week, every two weeks or once a month, adding the event to your calendar if needed to help you remember it. Repetition is key here, as is giving the activity your full attention.
Have your child select a new fruit or vegetable from the book that she’s interested in trying.
Make a special trip to the supermarket just to buy the item she’s selected. This isn’t a regular trip to the grocery store! Explore the produce section with your child and see if she can name fruits and vegetables from the book you’ve been reading together. Again, it’s important to focus on the child and the activity, not to get sidetracked and shop for other groceries.
Talk about how you will prepare the new fruit or vegetable, letting your child make the final decision. Does she want to try it raw or make a recipe featuring the item? If she wants to help cook, search the internet, Instagram, Pintrest or the Vitacost blog together for a child-friendly recipe.
As soon as possible, prepare the item as planned, and have your child try it. If she does, the activity is a success! She doesn’t have to like it. You may want to use the 2-3 bite rule before giving your child a small reward (see the next step).
If your child completes the activity, reward her! I do not recommend using food as a treat here. Instead, keep a bag of dollar-store toys, stickers or coins on hand, or choose a rewarding activity like a trip to the playground. Figure out what motivates your child and use that as positive reinforcement.
Post-activity homework for parents
Hopefully your child has tried the new food! Now it’s up to you to offer it every few days afterward. Every time you do this activity, there will be one more fruit and vegetable to offer, building up a repertoire of choices. For example, if your child tries and like tomatoes, offer them again in a few days. If she chooses cucumbers the next time, you’ll be able to serve tomatoes and cucumbers. Kiwi next? Great! Now you can offer tomato, cucumber and kiwi. This is how you build up an arsenal of healthy foods for your child.
Repeated exposure is key. Children may not like things right away, but if you repeatedly expose them to something, they’ll usually come around and accept them. You just need to make vegetables and fruits familiar. Having your child watch you eat the fruit or vegetable is just as important as them eating it. So be a good role model and eat your veggies, too!
Keep this activity pleasant and fun. If your child is getting upset, drop it and try again in a few days.