It's normal for
babies and toddlers to poke around their dinner plates and eliminate things
they don't like, but getting kids to eat has become an Olympic sport. If
retailers were smart, they would start selling protective-wear to frustrated moms
who are tired of scrubbing pureed peas out of their clothes and hair.
It turns out, these
"early food attitudes" stem from a child's personality, and those who
are inhibited are, by far, the most particular during mealtime. They feel the
same way about playtime. In a recent study,
researchers found that infants who were wary of new toys also tended to be less
accepting of new foods, while their counterparts—the ones on the other end
of the spectrum—had no problem mixing it up and trying new things.
“It was striking
how consistently the responses to new foods related to the responses to new
toys,” said Kameron Moding, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Colorado
Denver who also has a Ph.D. in human development and family studies from
“Not only were
they associated at 12 months, but those responses also predicted reactions to
new objects six months later. They also followed the same developmental pattern
across the first year of life.”
a Penn State professor of human development, added that a person's temperament
affects almost every aspect of their life.
If "attitude is everything," then that means a spirited child is
less likely to throw a pickle at your head when you're not looking. Sounds like
a win-win, but genetic
manipulation is still awaiting FDA approval, so let's take a step back for now
and look at the big picture.
“From the time
they’re very young, some infants are more 'approaching' and react positively to
new things, whereas other infants are more 'withdrawing' and react negatively
to the same stimuli,” Moding said. Hence why infants who show hesitation with new toys will likely also show hesitation when trying new foods for the
first time, too.
that although temperament is something a person is born with, it doesn’t mean a
person can’t change their behavior. Both Moding and Stifter agree: there are
things parents can do to encourage a varied diet.
“It can take as
many as eight to 10 tries," says Moding, "but infants and children
can learn to accept and eat even initially disliked foods.”
Simply put, the
more often a reluctant child sees a piece of food on their plate, the more
familiar they become. Thus, the better your chance of enjoying a gag-free, drama-free meal with friends and family. Hell, they may even dig that
cauliflower right out of the mashed potatoes on their own and stuff it down
their throats—intentionally—without being told.
Well, maybe it
won’t be that cut and dry, but a girl can dream.