When we feel like we’re good at something we want to do more of it. It’s that simple, whether it’s sports, music, a subject in school or adventurous eating. Below are 3 simple ways to help boost your child’s confidence around food, because if they feel confident about their skills, they’ll want to keep trying, and when we keep trying at anything we get better and better!
1. Positive Language
Positivity makes us feel hopeful, confident and happier. Naturally the human brain is predisposed to negativity as a safety mechanism, so we really do need to make the conscious choice to use positive language to bring out the confidence it fosters.
A great way to start being positive about food is to think about the senses. Talk about how beautiful food looks, the colors on your plate or the pattern on the skin of a fruit or vegetable. You could talk about a yummy smell of food cooking, the juice in your cup or hot cocoa in your mug, or comment on the nice feeling of a warm piece of pizza on your fingers. And then there are all the positive ways to talk about how foods taste! Yum, mmmm, delicious, scrumptious, divine…!
Have fun, get silly with your positive language, and see how your kids enjoy getting in on the fun! Just adding these kinds of comments to the environment around food will start to foster more positive feelings about food whether you see visible changes right away or not.
2. Think Small–Servings and Utensils
Large pieces and servings of food can be overwhelming for kids. Try offering small pieces at meals, snacks or food play opportunities (think the size of a pea or half a grape) so your child can explore this little bit without distractions. Then, if they want more, you can add it little by little. By setting your child up to ask for more, you’re also setting them up to be more positive!
Using small utensils like a spoon the size of an ice cream tasting spoon or a tiny fork (like a cocktail olive fork) can also help make new foods more approachable. If your child isn’t ready to touch a food with their fingers, putting little bits or bites on bento picks can be a fun way to start interacting with a small amount of a food. Or, if your child is able to serve themselves, try putting a big and little spoon in the serving dish so they can choose a big scoop or little taste, a Mama Bite or a Baby Bite. Once you start thinking small, get creative and make up your own games and routines with what you have in your kitchen!
3. Positive Praise
Positive praise builds confidence. We think about praising kids for trying a new food, taking a bite or eating a whole meal, but there are many steps before that first taste that are worthy of praise and that praise will help give your child the confidence to keep trying!
There’s always something to praise when we meet a child where they are. If your child doesn’t eat any foods, but is happy to play and explore with their hands, you can praise them for being a BRAVE food explorer! If your child touched a new food you can tell them what a great job they did making a hole in that cucumber, raspberry, or piece of bread with their finger! If they licked their first piece of broccoli–what a fabulous broccoli taster!
For adults, too, it’s way less frustrating to focus on what’s going right than what’s not. So have fun, get silly and help your child build their confidence around food with positivity!
Happy food play!