Did you grow up hearing about how peer pressure was a negative influence on our lives and how we should resist its evil pull? I sure did. Which is why I needed to do a double take when I read a study about how peer pressure can be a useful technique for getting kids to try new foods.
There’s a study that was done a number of years ago where they set up a daycare situation and had a few kids who hated carrots spend the day at this daycare. These kids had been served carrots many, many time by their parents. And these parents had done all the usual things to get their kids to eat the carrots – the 1 bite rule, no dessert if you don’t eat them, etc.
The rest of the kids in the “daycare”? They all loved carrots.
Guess what they served for snack? Carrots of course. You can also likely guess what happened next. Many of the kids who hated carrots watched their new friends eat the carrots. And then they too ate them. All without any prompting from the adults.
I had forgotten all about this study until recently when a friend was telling me about how, this week, her son had eaten salmon for the first time. She’s followed my techniques with feeding her 3 year old son. As a result he’s a pretty good eater, enjoying a decent variety of foods.
They had served him salmon many, many times. But he had never tried it. Until one day when they were over for dinner at his friend Chloe’s house. Salmon was on the menu that night – one of Chloe’s favourite foods.
You see, this little guy has a really special relationship with Chloe. He thinks that the sun rises and sets over her. Well, he took one look at Chloe eating her salmon and he tucked right into his salmon as if he’d been eating it his whole life.
His Mom nearly dropped her fork she was so surprised! But she remembered my tip of not making a big deal of it when your little one tries a new food. So she did an imaginary happy dance and then nonchalantly continued with the dinner conversation.
Six months later he still eats salmon. Peer pressure is a good thing.
Do some of your child’s friends enjoy foods that you’d like your child to eat? Arrange play dates or invite the family over for lunch or dinner. Serve the target foods. I can’t guarantee 100% success. But it’s another technique to create an environment that supports your child to choose to try new foods on their own.
Has this technique worked for you? I'd love you to share your story in the comments below!