We all want to get kids to eat better foods. I am not trying to brag, but my toddler eats 90% of all foods. Notice I said he “eats” 90% of all foods. I didn’t say he loves 90% of all foods.
There is a difference.
As parents, we get really caught up in talking about whether our kids either like or dislike foods. It’s very black and white. Good or bad. Love or hate.
Because that’s how young children think: in black and white.
We call this black and white thinking: concrete thinking. Developing the ability to see and appreciate the “grey area” is abstract thinking. Abstract thinking develops much, much later. Well after the age of 10.
But here’s the thing, in order to get our kids to eat more types of food—they HAVE to appreciate the grey area. Because that’s the food humans eat the vast majority of the time.
I love chocolate. I hate mushrooms. Everything else…sweet potatoes, broccoli, salmon…it’s all the grey area—it’s “just ok”. I eat those “ok” foods all the time. Actually I survive on them.
Kids can only communicate in black and white, because that’s how their brain works. When we are constantly asking “do you like it” and declaring their “likes and dislikes”—they become programmed to seek out the foods they really love and push away everything else (it’s that love/hate brain in action!).
Appreciating the grey area is hard at this age. So as parents, let’s talk to them about how most food is “just ok”.
Do yourself a favor, just drop the words “like” and “dislike” from meal time vocabulary. And keep on serving those grey foods to build an appreciation for all that stuff out there that is “just ok”.
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