Touching a new food to our lips or ‘kissing’ it, is an important and sensitive step on the path to eating new foods. The lips decide what goes into the mouth and what stays outside of the body. So, tasting is a physical step towards eating, but it’s also a major psychological step to decide that a food is safe enough to put in our mouth.
Modeling the behavior of tasting is really helpful at this step. Often we ask kids to do things like taste something, but we don’t elaborate or show them how. Even if your child isn’t quite ready to taste a food themselves, seeing the different ways you taste shows them that they don’t have to take a whole bite. They don’t even have to put a whole piece into their mouth to taste.
There are so many fun ways to taste foods! We can touch a food to our lips and taste it off of our lips, or decide to taste with just the tip of our tongue. We can taste off of a spoon or off of our fingers. Or we can practice ‘kissing’ foods.
We can kiss foods directly and see what they feel like, smell like and taste like off of our lips. But if kids aren’t ready to bring a food to their mouths we can introduce the idea of ‘kissing’ foods by having foods give each other a kiss, like the apple hearts in the picture above.
Or you can work up to kissing and tasting foods by kissing foods to different parts of your body, working towards the mouth. So, the apple can kiss your finger, your arm, your elbow, your shoulder, your cheek and then your lips. Then, when you make it to tasting off of the lips or tasting directly with the tongue, your child can feel safe that they know the routine of the game and what they can expect to happen.
A ‘kissy foods’ game can be adjusted to every child’s individual comfort level and interests. Even if a child isn’t ready to taste with their mouths, a game like this introduces the idea. And, if you can keep it fun, get kids laughing at the routine of kissing and tasting foods, you’re creating a really positive experience which helps create a solid foundation of positive, safe feelings around food–a necessary base for adventurous eating!
So, have fun playing your own ‘kissy foods’ games and happy food play!