Lindsay, A 2020, Learning to Like New Foods - Cucumbers are Cool, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
eating radish

Does it seem like your preschooler only wants to eat the same foods every day? Did your preschooler accept some foods as a baby (such as pureed spinach) but refuses to taste them now (such as steamed spinach leaves)? As adults, we have learned to enjoy many new flavors. Think about which foods you eat now that you wouldn't eat as a child. Over the years, we have discovered the taste of many foods we did not like as children.

Here is a plan that can you help your preschooler learn to taste and like new foods- especially vegetables!

Explore new foods with your child by helping them become familiar with the size, shape, look, feel, smell and so on. Eating uses all five of the senses and the senses can be used to enhance your eating experience.


As you are shopping with your child, you can point to foods and talk about each of them, like the color, smell, and texture. Select ONE fruit or vegetable that your child may not like or might not have tried before. Tell your child the food's name and let them give it to the cashier when you are ready to buy it.


When you bring the food home, suggest the two of you explore the food together. Try this experiment at snack time rather than at mealtime and remember, patience works better than pressure. It may seem strange in the beginning but explore the food the first time you introduce a new vegetable or a food your preschooler has previously refused. Use language such as "I like it" or "I might like it next time" rather than "I don't like it".

(A) TOUCH Feel the outside of the food. Does it feel smooth, hard, fuzzy, have ridges, or does it feel soft? How does the texture of the food feel on your fingers or when you take a bite?

(B) SEE Look at the food. What colors do you see? Use sight to appreciate the beauty of the food. Depending on the type of food, you may see different parts. If it's a fruit, how does the inside look when you cut it open?

(C) EXPLORE Play with the food. Pull it apart. Mash it in your fingers.

(D) SMELL Sniff the food. How does it smell? We use our nose to smell the flavors and scent of the food and to enhance the taste.

(E) HEAR Shake the food. Do you hear any sounds coming from it? What about when you eat it - does it make a sound? Can you think of a fruit that makes a sound when you bite it?

(F) TASTE If your preschooler is willing to taste the food, great! Does it taste sweet or salty? Is it soft or crunchy?

boys eating raspberries

If your preschooler is reluctant for fear that he or she will have to swallow the food, give your preschooler a napkin or paper towel. Tell him that it will be okay if he wants to just lick the food or try it and spit the bite into the paper. Acknowledge and compliment the child for trying, even if he didn't swallow the bite. For older children who might be watching, remind them that this is an experiment and not typically good manners to spit food out at the table!

Finally, it may take numerous tries of steps (A) through (F) before he will swallow his bite. Each step may need to occur on separate days and with separate attempts. Your preschooler may only get through one or two of the steps on a particular day before rejecting the food. If that happens, try again another time, and see if he'll go one step farther than before. Children are more likely to enjoy a food when eating (and swallowing).


A preschooler's refusal to eat many foods may be frustrating but it is normal behavior. Before children learn to like a food, they have to be exposed to the food repeatedly, become familiar with the food and taste the food. This takes time. Some children are very sensitive to new tastes, especially bitter ones like those found in many vegetables. In fact, vegetables are the foods most likely to be refused.

Explore new foods with your child by helping them become familiar with the size, shape, look, feel, smell and so on. Eating uses all five of the senses and the senses can be used to enhance your eating experience.


Senses trigger memories, which can last a lifetime. When shopping for, preparing, and enjoying your favorite meal, the senses are being used and can trigger the special memories associated with what that food means to you, like eating dinner together, making food as a family, and the conversations that happen around the dinner table.


Adapted from Teacher and Family Connections Curriculum: A Supplement to the All 4 Kids Program

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Extension Director's Office | On the campus of University of Nevada, Reno