Babies and children

How do you get toddlers to try new foods?

Zone default image Books may help!

Having trouble trying to persuade your toddler to eat their fruit and veg? Help may be at hand.

New research from Reading University suggests that toddlers who regularly look at pictures of fruit and vegetables not normally in their diet are much more enthusiastic about trying them.

Dr Carmel Houston-Price, of the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science, said: "From earlier research we knew that children are more willing to look at foods when they have seen books about them and we wanted to see if the books also made children more willing to eat unfamiliar foods."

As any mother is only too aware, toddlers can be extremely fussy when it comes to trying new foods, often refusing to eat foods which are unfamiliar.

In the small study involving 10 boys and ten girls under the age of 2, parents were given picture books about four foods - two fruits and two vegetables.

Two of the foods were familiar to the child, such as carrots and grapes, and two were unfamiliar, such as radish and lychees. The parents read the book every day with their toddler for two weeks.

The toddlers then took part in 'a willingness to taste test', where they were offered four vegetables - two featured in the book and two unfamiliar ones, not in the book. This was followed by a plate of four fruits.

Overall, the children were more interested in tasting unfamiliar foods if they had previously seen pictures of them in the books. So, for example, children who had seen lychees in their books tasted these before trying a fruit not shown, such as blueberries. Toddlers who had seen blueberries chose these before lychees.

"We think that showing children pictures of healthy foods might work to increase their willingness to taste them," said Dr Houston-Price.

"In the future we will examine whether picture books might be used to help parents introduce new foods at home, and whether parents whose children are fussy eaters might particularly benefit from this strategy."

The researchers are now extending the study to include 120 children. Mothers throughout the country wish them well!

The results are published online in the journal Appetite.

This article was published on Thu 3 December 2009

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