Last week I posted a ‘how to’ blog on Tiny Tastes outlining my take of this very effective way of getting children to try new foods. Tiny Tastes should be a simple, fun way of enabling children to be more adventurous however it it's worth being very clear about what you're doing. In this second part of the Tiny Tastes blog I'll look at a some of the hiccups you might encounter alongside some of the questions most commonly asked by parents.
Potential hiccups and how to put them right....
Hiccup: Asking a child repeatedly to do the Tiny Taste or trying to coax or cajole. Instead leave trying again until the next day. The less attention you’ve paid to reluctance the more likely children are to be keen on the second day.
Hiccup: Starting with a Tiny Taste food that is very smelly or strong in taste: It is better to start with something relatively uncontroversial and familiar until a child is more confident with tasting.
Hiccup: Letting more than a day go between Tiny Tastes so that phobic avoidance builds up again. Make sure you do a Tiny Taste for a particular food each day or at least every other day for the first three or four tastes then you can spread them out slightly. Aim to be as consistent and routine about the taste.
Hiccup: Talking too much about Tiny Tastes. Try not to prime your child too much. Simply set the Tiny Taste up at a neutral time away from mealtime, be very engaged and positive about the taste, give the sticker then turn your attention to something else.
Hiccup: Insisting a child swallows the TinyTaste. Some children initially just lick a food or put it in their mouth then spit it out. This is fine and not a problem. They'll get the hang of it so praise, praise, praise and of course remember the sticker reward!
My child has just refused to do Tiny Tastes point blank. Is there another way?
If you have tried the ‘oh that’s fine’ and then tried again on a few other occasions - don’t worry - there are many other ways. The key aspects of this process are the tiny size of the taste required and the frequency. Some people feel that setting up a separate toy table away from meals with another adult is just too much effort. If this is the case I advise them to try the Tiny Taste at mealtimes. As with the original procedure, use a small plate separate from the child’s food, emphasise the sticker and try and have someone model ‘tasting’ before you ask your child to try. Then repeat daily until they are relaxed when trying it.
My daughter is not interested in stickers. How might I reward her without making the rewards too big?
The basic rule is not to use food as a reward (although plate A / plate B is a slightly different situation). It is best to keep to something like stickers. Children who are snooty about simple stickers are often much more excited about the type of stickers which can be stuck into a collection book with a theme (so Spiderman sticker book that you have to try and collect all the stickers for). Normally a very annoying waste of money but in these situations they work a treat.
My child has done 14 tastes and is now relaxed around sausage. The only problem is he still says he does not like it and prefers other foods.
It is fine for your child not to like a particular food. What we want is for them to have a choice and not to experience a phobic reaction. Explain to your child that the Tiny Taste will mean that he will find it easy to have it on the plate and choose not to eat it without feeling upset. I would keep dishing out sausage as part of a bigger family meal with the understanding that he is free to leave it.
Could doing Tiny Tastes with children lead to a cycle of parental over involvement in feeding / pressure on a child to eat?
The vast majority of professionals working with children are very positive about Tiny Tastes. However recently I read someone who (in passing) criticised it as an intervention. They felt that it might create an environment where parents are pressing children to eat / overriding children’s appetite regulation. I think this criticism is unwarranted for a number of reasons:
Tiny Tastes is not aimed at encouraging children to override their appetite. Children are introduced to a very tiny amount of a food (equal to a grain of rice or less). Tiny Tastes has very little to do with satisfying hunger or overeating. It is to do with exploration and gaining confidence around specific foods.
Done properly there should be no pressure from a parent (although there is light and gentle encouragement and all round enthusiasm for tasting!).
How do I move forward after Tiny Tastes…
After you’ve done one of two different foods with Tiny Tastes children normally get the hang of tasting food. Keep to tiny amounts and gradual exposure but now you can do it at the table without the game (although at some points you might want to suggest a non food reward for a new food that they are really not keen on).
Have you tried Tiny Tastes / Are you thinking of trying? I’m very keen to get people’s comments on this process. If you’ve had any experiences with Tiny Tastes or if you’re trying it for the first time please leave comments/ tips / questions.
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