Fun and games help toddlers make healthy choices

By Kathleen Lees

The last concern on children’s minds is eating healthy. Yet adding a little fun and games to the equation can make a dramatic difference when it comes to eating right.

Recent findings published in the journal Appetite found that some fun fruit and vegetable games were enough to encourage toddlers to try out some healthy choices.

“Getting toddlers to try something new is not an easy task. Most parents will have experienced frustration, and a messy floor, when encouraging their toddler to try different foods — especially when it isn’t a high fat or sugary treat. Our study showed that introducing new foods through fun familiarization activities such as letting children poke their fingers inside foods, smelling them, and drawing pictures of them, increased toddlers’ willingness to touch and taste them at mealtimes — especially the vegetables,” said lead study author, Dr. Carmel Houston-Price, from the University’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, in a news release.

For the study, researchers recruited 92 toddlers between the ages of 12 to 36 months from six nurseries. All of the toddlers were randomly divided into a control group and a study group.

In the study group, the children played with unfamiliar foods, including sweet potato, pomegranates, and rhubarb every day for about four weeks. Certain tasks were required of the children, including touching, poking, smelling, and drawing of the food items. Children in the control group were not required to be involved with the food.

Findings revealed that those who were involved with the foods were about 32 percent more likely to try them than those who were not involved. They were also at a decreased risk of obesity.

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