Did you know there are 32 steps to eating?
Starting with being in the same room with food all the way to actually chewing and swallowing it.
New foods can feel scary for new eaters and especially for kids who are pickier or apprehensive about foods. This is why I discourage getting children to take "just one bite" they might just not be ready yet!
That doesn't mean you can't start exposing your child to new foods. One way to do this without a lot of pressure is with *food play*.
Children learn by playing and they learn to feel comfortable with new foods by touching, exploring, and playing with them.
Food play can begin as early as your baby starts exploring their environment and can be a part of play-time for children of any age.
Here are some ideas to encourage food play outside of mealtimes
Finger paint with yogurt, vegetable puree, or cold soup
Use a celery stick as a paintbrush
Fill a tub of water with sliced vegetables or lemons
Explore the inside of a pumpkin or spaghetti squash
Hide toys in a bowl of zucchini noodles
Cover clean animals in applesauce then help your child to clean them (or lick off the sauce, if they're comfortable)
To encourage food play at mealtimes, try:
offering foods that require peeling like bananas, peas, edamame beans, boiled eggs
to design a face out of the foods on your plates
making up silly games - "how many blueberries does the grizzly bear eat?"
encouraging imagination - "wow you built a volcano out of your mashed potatoes"
You might be wondering what to do if your child would rather play with their food than eat it. For most people growing up, we were told it was "impolite" to play with your food. But play and touching food is such an important aspect of learning to eat and part of the whole sensory experience. As long as no one is getting hurt and the mess isn't growing too large, I say "let them play!"
For a simple cheat sheet for building toddler snacks (with 20 different toddler friendly snack examples) subscribe to the Nourished Nest Nutrition newsletter for the free Toddler Snack Builder download.
Want more support?
If you want to join a really awesome community of parents and caregivers raising toddlers to have a healthy relationship with food, The Your Nourished Toddler program includes video modules (with written transcripts) for every question that might come up while feeding your toddler, a very popular recipe book, nutrition and meal planning information, a private facebook group, and guest speaker q&as with toddler experts.
This program is perfect for you if you are a parent and caregiver of a toddler (or soon-to-be toddler) and want to raise your child with a healthy relationship with food and create positive mealtime memories.
You will learn all about creating a positive environment around food and eating, how to create nutritious meals, and how to feel totally confident feeding your toddler.