So, you want to start doing food play with your picky eater?
You may have heard getting hands-on with food is the key to helping picky kids try new foods.
While food play is just one piece of the puzzle, it’s true that hands-on experiences can accelerate progress with eating and make kids more comfortable, confident eaters. When kids play with food they’re accomplishing several things that can make eating easier:
- They’re using all of their senses to learn and engage. Sensory food experiences give the body “exposures” and information that make the body more comfortable with new foods and lead to more comfortable eating.
- They’re engaging on their own terms, building confidence and comfort at their own pace.
- They can create positive experiences that lead to more willingness to eat.
Food play for picky eaters sounds ah-maaaazing? Here’s how to get started using food play to improve picky eating:
Use a favorite food first
First timer? Don’t whip out broccoli (unless your child is the ONE extremely picky eater who actually likes it). Think about your first go as practice. A comfortable food poses a lower barrier to entry while you both learn the ropes. In fact, it’s *always* okay to include a preferred food.
Include a favorite toy
“Food play” sounds cool, but if you’re honest, you have no idea what it really means….and you’re not that playful or creative.
No problem. Just play however your child likes to play. A favorite toy might make it easier. Food can ride in their racecar. Or try feeding a doll or figurine.
Work your way closer to eating
Whatever you do, don’t rush to eating – even if it’s fun and playful. Start by just looking at and then touching the food. Gradually move closer to the face and test out smelling, licking, biting, and eating. Maybe you have a broccoli floret “person.” You can “wash their hair,” walk them to the barber, smell their shampoo and give them a haircut with your teeth.
Focus on one goal: to have fun
Yes, the ultimate goal here is eating. But if that’s what you’re pushing for, this is going to backfire. Focus on fun. Fun breeds comfort and comfort leads to eating.
Don’t give up if they don’t eat the first time
It might happen! But it might not. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean it’s not working. This strategy can take time. Give it a real chance.
Food play isn’t about getting your child to eat ASAP. It’s about them fostering positive interactions and increased comfort with novel foods. These are both precursors to eating. So essentially, think of food play as the training or practice to help them grow into a more confident, open eater.
if you’re thinking, “That sounds…hard,” you need my free 5 Steps to Eating mini training. In just 10 minutes you’ll learn a crazy simple concept that will transform your food play adventures and get your child actually EATING. Did I mention it’s free?! Like, $0. Run, don’t walk.
Think food play for picky eating sounds great, but you’re like hhmmmm, ideas please! I’ve got you:
- 15 Fun Food Play Ideas for Picky Eaters
- Fun Winter Food Activities for Picky Eaters
- 5 Fun Spring Sensory Food Play Ideas to Help Picky Eaters
- 5 Fun Fall Food Activities for Picky Eaters
- 20+ Activities for Picky Eaters