Is your kid a fussy eater? Here’s how to fix it

Life as Laboratory
Life as Laboratory

If a kid is a fussy eater, parents inevitably blame themselves. A new study shows that your parenting skills cannot take the sole blame. Some will have to go to your genes too.

A new study involving nearly 2,000 sets of 16-month-old twins, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry by researchers at University College London, found that what makes a kid a fussy eater is explained about half by the environment he grew up in and half by genes. It adds more evidence to a 2014 study on three- to four-year-old twins, which came to a similar conclusion.

This might seem depressing. You can’t do much about the genes you passed on to the young’un, and as it is, your parenting skills haven’t helped. But don’t despair!

Quartz explored the science of getting your kid to eat everything recently, and found three tricks that could help you fix the problem.

  1. If your kid is young, you’re in luck. Researchers have found that there is a “flavor window” which opens between 4 and 18 months. Exposing your kids to more flavors in this period makes them more likely to try them. The more flavors they end up liking, the more willing they become to try new flavors later in life.
  2. If your kid is older than 18 months, there’s still hope. Studies have found that most parents give up too easily when trying to expose their children to new flavors: 95% give up only after three tries. Instead, for toddlers, experts suggest trying up to 10 times for younger kids, and up to 15 times for three- to four-year-olds. It’s hard work, but it’ll be worth ti.
  3. What if none of the above works? The final suggestion is to cheat a little. Try tiny tastes, where you give the child a tiny portion of new food in plate A and a large portion of food they like on plate B. Then tell them that they can only have the food they like, if they tasted (licking counts) the food in plate A.

Read next: The science of getting your kids to eat more vegetables

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