The language we use during mealtime matters. The words we choose as adults can shape the child’s perception and relationship to food.
We want to create children who are willing to explore food. One of the best ways we can do this is giving them a larger repertoire of words to use to describe their experience of eating food. Children often have many of ways they can tell us they don’t care for a certain food; “It’s gross”, “It’s yucky”, “I don’t like it”, “it’s bad”.
Each one of those phrases will make the child’s point; however, they are all declarations that leave you nowhere to explore. They don’t leave any room to grow. Try to avoid describing food as either “good” or “bad”. Instead, teach your child how to describe exactly what it is they like, or don’t like about the food. Some examples could be:
It’s too salty
It’s too crunchy
It’s too big
It’s too green
It’s too mushy
It’s too hot/cold
All of these statements describe an aspect of the flavor, texture, appearance, or temperature. The majority of the time, any one of these aspects can be altered to be more appearing to the child. You can alter the flavor by adding another flavor. You can alter the texture by adding something softer or harder to the original food. You can change the appearance by cutting the food into smaller pieces, or fun shapes. You can change the temperature by heating it up or leaving it out to cool.
If your child is able to tell you it’s too mushy, try and adding a little bit of crunch with chips or crackers. If your child says it’s too green, try adding a little ketchup or ranch dressing to alter the color slightly.
Once the child has the ability to tell you exactly what it is that’s bothering them, you have a better chance to have a conversation about how you can change it to make it more appealing.
As they experience describing and altering the food more and more, you can start to ask them how they would change it to make it taste better.
At the very least if they alter the food and still do not care for it, you can praise them for being a great, “food explorer” and trying something new!
See how creative you can get with describing foods and making them taste and look exactly the way they want.
Good luck and have fun!