Every evening, parents across the country bark the same instruction to their young children at the dinner table - ‘Don’t play with your food!’
Now, however, research suggests that youngsters who are allowed to mess around with their fruit and vegetables are actually more likely to eat them. Researchers found that children given permission to touch, handle and even squash foods such as spinach, cucumbers, bananas and tomatoes were more inclined to snack on them later.
The findings, published in the journal Appetite, suggest this type of sensory play helps young children overcome any resistance they have to foods they are reluctant to eat. Researchers said the key is not to put pressure on children but to let them play instead.
At no time during the experiment were they encouraged to consume any of the fruits or vegetables. Instead, they naturally took to eating healthy snacks immediately after the test.
Experts have long believed the key to increasing their intake is exposing youngsters to taste. The researchers said: ‘One explanation is they had time to familiarize themselves and interact with the foods. This would suggest exposure does not have to be based on taste alone.
‘We found the largest benefits were with foods that are less familiar, such as pomegranate and kiwi. During play, there was no mention of tasting the food. 'The goal was to engage with it and create something from it. It may be these types of activities increase the likelihood of tasting by children.’
© Daily Mail