Are you struggling to expand your child’s food choices? If your little one is a picky eater, read more to understand how to expand his taste palate and go beyond his limited taste preferences.
Development of taste and sensory perception in children
By 12 months of age, children are no longer dependent on milk, and consume a wide variety of food. From 12 to 18 months, they will be able to establish a preference for certain foods and will be able to recognise a combination of tastes and textures. Based on the way the food looks, the child categorises it as known or unknown. That is why new food is rejected by babies and toddlers since it's unknown. Even small changes in food can make them reject the food plate. The child will need an exposure of one or two tastes in the first 6 months to induce a preference, compared to 14 or more during the later stages. This is why it is crucial to develop tastes and preferences in the early stages of growth.
Factors that shape a child’s taste palate
Here are a few factors that help in expanding your child’s palate:
- Children develop their taste palate through repetition. They prefer food that is familiar to them especially, if that makes them feel good after consumption.
- It is recommended that children should be exposed to food with nutritional value to help them develop a taste for healthy foods over time.
- Smell, appearance, and perception also contribute to shaping the taste palate. Developing positive experiences around healthy food with stories, songs, and art can also help in improving the child’s taste palate.
- Children like fun and adventure and hence, adding fun while dining can improve your child’s willingness to try new food.
- You should try to involve kids in the meal decisions in the kitchen, at the market and the dinner table. A good example is to make them add items to the cart while shopping. This improves their ownership of the items. While all kids may not like to be in the kitchen, sometimes it helps to make them a part of the meal preparation process.
- A child’s palate can also be improved by understanding the reasons behind the refusal of food. Children might refuse food due to many reasons. Parental anxiety about health and growth is considered as one of the main reasons. The following are some of the ways by which parents or caregivers may contribute to food refusal:
- They might continue to provide milk feeds for a longer period than necessary
- They may delay solid or semi-solid food as they are worried about choking hazards
- They may provide certain foods forcefully to avoid dietary imbalance
- Parents or caregivers may force-feed certain foods regularly
Improving your child’s food and taste preferences
Taste and food preferences can be improved in children by following these recommendations.
- Provide exposure to food with nutritional value early in life and increase the exposure
- Children may not like new foods initially but with some perseverance, they might develop a taste for them. However, parents should be careful not to distress the child.
- Parents should be focused on the experience and not on the amount of food.
- Provide homemade food regularly.
- Your child should be encouraged to enjoy food.
- You should consume food that you want your child to have.
- Avoid feeding your child forcefully.
- Avoid placing disliked food on the plate with the food they like.
- Don’t label your child as a picky eater as it can make them stubborn.
- Provide choices to your child of the same food and try to involve them in the decisions.
- Avoid substituting food as it may result in delaying the process of developing the taste.
Children become picky eaters around 18 months of age which can last beyond their childhood. There are many types of pickiness and hence, it is important to understand what works for your child. Also remember that parental anxiety is often an important reason behind the child’s refusal of food and hence you need to relax while feeding your child. Make sure that you expose your child to foods with high nutritional value in the early stages of his growth. This can definitely help in developing tastes and preferences towards healthy food and have a positive impact on his health.
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