Since my children were babies I always put a little bit of everything onto their plates. The idea being that they got used to a range of foods even if they chose not to eat them. I knew from my work that children needed to have close contact with lots of different foods and I held back on more servings if there was still a lot of food uneaten on their plates.
Now in some ways this worked a treat. It has certainly meant that my children are very happy to eat rye bread / muesli / a good range of vegetables. But with some foods it was extremely slow work. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of food going to waste and my children seemed able to ignore particular foods without any attempt to try them.
So what can parents do without unhelpfully forcing the issue? Well if you find yourself repeatedly serving food that gets left casually (or not so casually) to the side then it really is worth thinking about using an approach called Tiny Tastes.
Tiny Tastes is based on the idea that the high level of food rejection in children’s diets is most frequently down to a phobic reaction. When we want children to face something they think will be difficult or horrid then the answer is to make that difficult thing as tiny as possible whilst highlighting the fun / reward aspect as much as you can. Here’s what you can do….
Tiny Tastes the Game
The game consists of three small plates that are laid out on a play table some way away from the main family table.
On each of the small plates is the piece of food you want your child to taste. The biggest plate has a piece of food the size of an adult thumbnail; the middle-sized plate has a smaller piece of that food (the size of a pea) and the smallest plate has a piece of the food that’s the size of a grain of rice. The three plates give the child a feeling of choice.
Introducing Tiny Tastes
Act as if the plates belong to a friendly bear (fish / mermaid / train etc) who has a shop.
Bear (you with the bear in your hand!) invites the adult and the child over to see his Tiny Tastes Shop.
Bear asks the adult which Tiny Taste he would like to try. The adult ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ and decides on the teeny tiny taste because he is ‘not sure’ but wants a sticker.
The adult tries the food, puts on a mildly interested face and says something like ‘it tastes pinky and licky’. The children’s words encourage the child to think about the taste and bring a sense of fun to the taste.
Inviting your child to have a go
Bear then invites the child to do the same.
If the child seems up for a taste then let them choose the smallest portion (most likely) and then get bear to give him or her a sticker with a lot of jolly ‘oh isn’t this a great sticker’ ing.
Ask your child what it tastes like.
After about three Tiny Tastes and once your child is happy with a grain of rice size taste then increase the taste to pea sized, then to half a spoonful then to a spoonful. Your child might need to try the Tiny Taste up to 12 or 15 times before they are comfortable with it although in a lot of cases children are happy to eat a food far before this. On the outside the reward is the sticker that the child gets when they have a Tiny Taste. The real reward is the game and the positive attention they receive from parents.
When a child is relaxed around a food they are normally happy with to have it on their plate. I would still allow a child some time to get used to having the recently ‘okay’ food in larger amounts so just take things gradually.
In Part 2, next week, I shall be looking at some of the most common questions asked about Tiny Tastes.
If you find these ideas interesting and would like to know more then why not contact me for a consultation or sign up for my newsletter.
 This approach is based on an approach drawing on research carried out by Fildes, A., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Wardle, J. and Cooke, L. J. (2013) A randomized controlled trial of parent-administered exposure to increase children’s vegetable acceptance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics