Can we get kids to eat vegetables?

My oldest daughter was about 3 years old when she decided that not wanting to eat vegetables was a much more interesting move than to be a good girl and eat them. The moment dinner time arrived and I put her in her seat at the table something inside her shifted. From sweet gentle toddler she turned into a veggie rejecting monster.

In a way I really understood her strategy. Kinds of that age don’t have that much to say about their live. By keeping her mouth shut she managed to take control and noticed that this was the moment that her mum would start behaving in interesting ways. I do respect that attitude. But obviously, for me, as her well intending mother who wanted her to be healthy that was a real challenge.

Next to the play in power-balance, putting something unfamiliar in your mouth really is kind of scary- even voor adults. Especially when it comes from a spoon that’s held by someone else. The way to learn to accept a new flavour is by repeating the tasting experience. Research shows that a person needs to taste something about 7 times on average before accepting a new flavour. Tasting 7 times with limited time in between the moments of tasting shapes new neurological pathways. Compare it to learning a new language: repetition within a short timeframe is key.

So there were two things I knew I needed to change. First of all, I had to break the cycle of the dining table ritual. Next to that, I had to find a way to make her taste the same vegetables multiple times.

I decided to cooperate with her daycare and I invited all the kids to my studio for a ‘workshop’. I called it the ‘Veggie bling bling’ workshop and told them we were going to make jewellery with vegetables. There was one crucial thing: the kids needed to use their tiny teeth to shape the veggies. Of course there were some cookie cutters, knifes and a drill, but to make the shapes of bracelets, necklaces and the occasional sword, the kids were directed to use their naturally sharp assets: their tiny sharp teeth.

My son was noticably more excited to try new vegetables after the workshop. It really surprised me!

Anita Mother of one of the participating children

The moment we started ‘playing’, all the kids, without any hesitation began nibbling their veggies. There was not a single child who would shape a necklace or a bracelet and would spit the bitten off pieces out.

All of them felt like they were doing a workshop. Clearly, they were not at the dining table, and they weren’t officially eating. However, by having to shape the vegetables in their mouth they were tasting and tasting the vegetables over and over again.

I even saw some kids ending up eating their creations all the way before they were done.

After this workshop my daughter did change her attitude towards vegetables. Of course she didn’t just enjoy everything overnight but her attitude softened. Also the other parents reported positive results with their children’s vegetable likings.

If you have a stubborn vegetable eater at home, why don’t you try this approach with a couple of kids together? Let me know how it went!

Veggie Bling Bling

A self-initiated project
initially created for Juni Donkers

repeated at

MAD Foodcamp

repeated at

Victoria and Albert Museum

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