The refusal to eat is a normal stage in child development. Children, normally between the ages of 1 and 3 years, often develop a fear of any new food or dish, whether it changes its presentation, its texture or is completely new to them, and this is known as Neophobia or rejection of the child to new foods. What can we do to overcome this phase of the little ones? We will tell you!
Generally, with the introduction of complementary feeding, babies feel a natural interest in adult food. They are not overwhelmed by the new flavors and textures they are faced with, and at this age it is easy for them to accept a good number of foods with a wide variety of flavors, both sweet and savory.
Usually, around 18 months, there is usually a point in which the child begins to reject food, being in some children more accused than in others. Also, at this time, children often refuse to even try foods that they previously ate perfectly with or without changes in their presentation.
Although Neophobia is something normal in the development of the child that is overcome with time, we can take certain measures to make this stage pass more easily.
- The rejection of new foods is more frequent in children who have not been offered a lot of variety of foods and textures when starting complementary feeding, so, ideally, the greater exposure to flavors and textures, the more possibilities that the neophobia is mild and for a shorter period of time.
- Neophobia is usually more persistent in children whose motor skills are limited and in those who find it difficult to chew.
- Children who are more sensitive to changesEither because they have specific health conditions or because it is difficult for them to accept extreme sensations (cold, heat, noise ...), they are usually more susceptible to suffering a more pronounced neophobia. In these cases, in addition to being essential to expose them to a maximum of foods and flavors before they reach 18 months, it is essential to be respectful with the child and try to introduce new foods in presentations that are familiar to them.
- Although this stage sooner or later comes to an end, it has been observed that its duration is usually shorter in children who eat at the same table as other people, like their parents and siblings, and not separated and at different times from the rest of the family.
- It is not considered neophobia when a child refuses to eat a food the first time it is offered, rather, they have to volunteer multiple times to enter the rejection category. Normally, it is necessary for a child to consume a food more than three times in order for him to develop an opinion about whether he likes it or not, so we should not abandon the first change.
- Children tend to eat less if they are tired, distracted or somewhat ill, so these times are not very suitable for the introduction of new foods, and it is better to stay in the comfort zone of the child with familiar dishes and to their liking. Also, other health conditions, such as constipation or reflux, can aggravate neophobia.
- Excessive intake of milk or sugary drinks - remember that children should not consume more than water with their meals - can limit their appetite, aggravating neophobia. Additionally, paying too much attention to their rejection or forcing the child to finish the plate can also have the same effect.
- When it comes to young children, it is their own natural fear of pollution that determines neophobia. One of the instincts that we conserve since our ancestors is the rejection of foods that can potentially be a health risk, something that is usually easily overcome by seeing parents eat the same dish. However, as the child gets older, there are other factors that can influence his rejection of certain foods. For example, from the age of 3, children tend to be clear about which foods they like and which they don't, as well as being able to decide if something is appetizing or disgusts based on its appearance.
You can read more articles similar to Neophobia or the refusal of children to try new foods, in the Eating Disorders category on site.