Children learn about food qualities through their eyes, hands, nose and tongue. Interacting with food before the demand of eating promotes success.
Children develop their perceptions towards various foods differently than adults. We perceive food with a cognitive lens, in which we recall past experiences, categorize foods and reason our way through choosing which foods we are going to eat.
Children perceive food with a sensory-motor lens, in which they decide which foods they are going to eat through there eyes, hands, nose, in addition to their tongue. Many children are highly aware of changes in food’s shape, size, color, smell, temperature and texture. In some cases, children will refuse foods that appear slightly different than their preferred choices.
There are many reasons why a child may have a limited food repertoire and prefer to eat the same few foods again and again. All children benefit from interacting with food in more ways that just eating.
My suggestion: Invite your children into the kitchen. Scoop, pour, shake, stir, open, close and mix. As a bonus, you’ll be engaging in activities great for sequencing, imitation, attention, planning and fine motor development. Most young children are thrilled at the chance to join their parents in the kitchen. Also, it’s a better use of time than the parent occupying or distracting the child away from the kitchen so that the parent can hurry up and get the cooking done.
With son #1, before he could walk, every morning we would make smoothies and my coffee together. I helped him scoop the protein powder, pour the milk and kefir, peel the banana and scoop the ice. Next I helped him scoop the coffee grounds (“one, two, three”) and pour the water. Then we washed the dishes together, in which he played in the water with his hands while I loaded the dishwasher. And yes it was always a mess. And yes it took three times longer than if I just did it myself. You need to rethink your kitchen time as more than just preparing food. It’s a place to develop your child’s lifelong relationship with food.
For a little parenting humor, check this out this diagram from the “Honest Toddler”: