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The Totally Weird Trick That Could Get Your Toddler to Like More Veggies

Photograph by Twenty20

Getting kids to eat their vegetables is as close to "Game of Thrones" as some moms will ever get, especially those with small children. There are evil glares and broccoli beheadings—so much drama. It's almost as if Cersei herself is backstage, calling the shots.

If only you had some wind chimes. Wait. What?

Though it might sound strange (read: doubtful) that noise from a wind chime could help motivate babies, toddlers and little kids to eat their vegetables, Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, says that high-pitched music can accentuate the sweetness in food, thus making it more palatable to children.

“The idea with chirpy music such as wind chimes is that it contains the high-pitched musical notes that have been shown to bring out the sweetness in a food that contains a sweet note,” says Spence, adding that fussy eaters should be encouraged to play with their food.

It takes time for children, who are sensitive to taste or texture, to get used to eating bitter or awkwardly shaped vegetables. According to Dr. Gemma Witcomb, a lecturer in psychology at Loughborough University and a co-developer of the Child Feeding Guide, this fussiness typically peaks around 18 to 24 months of age, when infants are more aware of what they're eating.

“Suddenly, everything seems new," she says. "Being fearful of new things is evolutionarily adaptive; our ancestors needed to be fearful of new foods so that they didn’t ingest potentially harmful foods.”

But what happens when they start launching their veggies off their plates?

It's OK to get frustrated when a child refuses to eat, but Witcomb says that threatening to take away their dessert won't help. In fact, research shows that "their liking for it will actually decrease even more as a result of this. Plus, it makes the pudding even more prized.”

For this reason, Witcomb says parents shouldn't pressure a child when introducing vegetables. Instead, she suggests that you continue to offer these foods without saying a word—up to 20 times—before deciding that your child doesn’t like it.

“Eat what you expect your child to,” she says. “It’s amazing how often this doesn’t happen. They will quickly work out you aren’t eating that cabbage that you’re forcing them to try.”

Children love to be helpful, and what better place to start than in the kitchen. When you involve your kids in meal preparation, they learn—without knowing—how to appreciate the textures, colors and aromas that each ingredient carries. Besides, it's a great (and sneaky) way to introduce foods without being obvious.

So, go ahead and take your kids to the supermarket. Let them choose which vegetables pair best with plain noodles, and teach them how to play with their food without stress. Hell, when they realize what they've accomplished; they may even take a bite on their own.

But, just in case, don't forget to add a dash of music while you try to get them to eat broccoli without a fight.

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