Contributed by The Family Dinner Project Team
Help your child explore new foods by becoming a food detective! Repeated exposure to different foods, without the pressure to eat them, helps kids become more accepting of new food items.
Try this food detective activity first with a food that your child usually likes and accepts. Then add a food that they’ve encountered before, but may not be accepted just yet. If that goes well, you can try adding a food that is totally new and unfamiliar to see how your child responds.
- Set up a “detective’s office” area. You’ll need a place to set out the food, plus lots of different “tools” your detective will use to help investigate the item. Kid-safe knives, a magnifying glass, bowls of hot and cold water, a measuring tape or ruler, and a kitchen scale are examples of great tools for your budding detective. Also make sure to supply plenty of paper towels or napkins in case things get messy or your detective feels the need to wipe their hands.
- Add a notebook and pencil so your detective can record their findings (or have you scribe for them).
- Ask your detective to investigate the food you’ve chosen and record their answers to the following questions (or any others you might think of!):
- What color is the food?
- How big is it, and/or how much does it weigh?
- Does it look different when you stand five feet away from it? How about two feet away?
- What do you notice about it when you look at it under a magnifying glass?
- What does it feel like to touch this food? Is it smooth, rough, squishy, dry, wet…?
- Can you squash this food with your hands? Can you tear it or break it with your hands?
- Do you need a knife to cut it? Can it be cut with a butter knife, or do you need something sharper?
- What sound does it make when you break it?
- Can you shake it in your hands? Does it make a noise?
- Does it have a smell? Can you describe it?
- What happens if you soak it in cold water for 5 minutes? Does it change at all? What about soaking it in hot water?
- If you lick the food, does it have a taste? What about a texture?
- Try to push this food across the table to the other end. Measure how far it goes.
- Now add an extra challenge for your detective! Ask them to share their notes and findings with another family member who wasn’t present for the activity. Can the other person guess what food they were investigating just by reading the notes?