Food is the glue of all social interaction. It nourishes, it heals and it provides the centerpiece of family life. Except when you have young children. Then it becomes the glue that sticks all the pages of Olivia together and to the table and the cat.
Getting children to try new food becomes a sharp point of contention, an endless source of angst. Eventually you give up and provide endless bowls of white pasta with grated cheese for dinner, for lunch. And in desperation, for breakfast as well.
In reality very little can be done with a child who refuses to be enthusiastic about food but before you give up entirely, try these simple tips.
A close relation of the Slow Food Movement, Slow Flavouring requires patience (and as a mother you have an abundance of that, right?) and diligence. Start by adding the tiniest amount of the new flavour to an already well-loved dish. For example, adding a little bit of paprika to a meat stew. Each time you cook the dish you add a tiny bit more until the taste becomes, to them, part of the flavour. A variation of this method is to add a new thing to pasta, or rice – depending what your child’s default carbohydrate is – again – just a small amount added each time.
This is much more fun than Tip 1 because you get to hang out with your friends at the same time. Arrange a play date with a good friend of your child and make sure a new dish will be served. Serve the children at a separate table and leave them alone – that’s right – walk away and leave them alone to eat the food. It helps if they are hungry when you arrive – oddly enough hungry children are more open to trying new foods.
This one requires some creativity and imagination. Basically take the ‘offensive’ food and dress it up as something fun, or funny. Invent a new name for it and serve it up with a story or a song. Food that looks like an animal, a favourite toy, or daddy works well.
Popping an apron on a child and involving them with the preparation of the food is not only a good way to get them interested in different types of food, it’s the first step in having them take over some cooking duties in the future. With small children, just arranging things on a platter can be enough. This method can be messy and haphazard, but if you stick with it, you can have them creating their own school lunches when they are in class 3.
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