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I thought this question might be a good complement to a question posted about a child that pretends to choke when he doesn't like a certain food. This question and its answers mostly address the choking behavior, but what about the dislike of the food in the first place?

This question has some great recommendations for toddlers and preschoolers really, but what about the somewhat older child?

How do you get a child between six and the upper limit of being able to influence such things in the first place, to give new foods a try?

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I had a convo with my elementary kids about this a couple yrs ago.

I explained the difference between foods we eat; there's Cake, Kibble and Crap.

Simply put nobody likes Crap. Crap is different person to person. But you can't figure out what the Crap is without trying things.

Everyone loves Cake. But you can't survive on Cake. So between Cakes you eat Kibble. Kibble is what you eat to keep you alive so you can make it to the next Cake. (yeah there's more to it than this, but this is the way I talk to my kids and even my 5 yo got it that it was a humorous twist on a very basic part of life).

Kibble isn't your favorite, but it's not Crap either. Sometimes it's kinda tasteless and needs some salt or mustard. But it is what it is.

"And since variety is the spice of life, sometimes ma will fix different things for the daily Kibble. All I'm asking you to do is just try it. Not eat an entire plate of portobello mushrooms or a bowl of chitterlings, just try it. If you like it, great. If you don't like it, well that's fine too. Just understand that just because it doesn't taste like Cake that doesn't automatically mean it's Crap."

The night I had that first conversation was the first time I made pork chops for them. They'd never had them and were all about "I don't like it" before it ever reached the table. What they meant was "I don't like it because it's not corndogs. I want corndogs."

And now we have porkchops regularly.

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I love your sense of humor. –  balanced mama Nov 29 '12 at 1:59
    
"I don't like it because it's not corndogs. I want corndogs." Substitute "corndogs" for "mac n cheese" and you have my house! But I cracked up when I read that line. I can totally imagine those words running through my 5 yo's head! –  Meg Coates Oct 1 '13 at 2:44
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One thing school nutrition programs often do is have "food tasting parties" to normalize the experience. So, you could get foods that even you haven't tried before and turn it into a family ritual. It could involve going to a restaraunt but I think it'd be more fun to investigate together how people cook/serve it, the cutlural relevance, etc. Then, when adults and kids are in the same boat, especially at this age, I imagine it being more fun and less about "because I told you so." I think this would set up a family culture of trying new things, simply for the sake of trying them, which in this context is helpful, but also when it comes to new subjects in school or after-school curricula, etc.

Plus, at this age, probably the grosser-sounding/looking, the better sometimes ;) Ha, but I'm just thinking things like fruit, veggies and grains that aren't part of your normal family experience.

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@Rory Alsop said something similar in chat that has resulted in his kids introducing him to a few new things. –  balanced mama Nov 28 '12 at 20:54
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My father-in-law used to offer that if they tried the new food and the child didn't like it, they could spit it out in his hand. I'm told he rarely had to make good on this offer. But the concept of getting to do this was motivating enough that his daughters tried new things.

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Wow; I would have so much half-chewed food spat into my hand if we tried this approach. –  mattdm Oct 1 '13 at 22:39
    
Your father-in-law must have a great sense of humor. –  balanced mama Oct 23 '13 at 16:47
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We've had good success with a "New Food Points" system. This is a chart where they get half a point for "tasting" a new food, one point for really trying, and five points for eating a new food all up. Then, a certain number of points can be cashed in for an eventual reward. (We try to avoid on-the-fly bribery as a general principle, but for us at least this kind of planned bribery is totally worth it.)

I think the science is pretty good on the idea that simply trying things early on is the road to a varied appreciation of foods later. We read once that it takes an average of 14 tries to learn to like a new food — I don't know if that's really a magic number, but the important thing is that it really does take a long time to adapt, and so we keep offering and making available without pushing. And after several years of this, as a family we can happily go out as a family for Indian, Thai, sushi, and more; not to mention pretty good success with vegetables from the farmer's market.

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