First, try to feel reassured that it can take 10-15 exposures to a new food before your child will warm up to the idea. So be patient and remember: it is your job to decide what they eat, when they eat and where they eat and it is their job to decide if and how much. Try not to beg, bride or force as this will only lead to a power struggle and unfortunately they probably have WAY more energy for the battle than you do. Do not cater to their every food preference as giving into what they want all the time will likely just reinforce their picky habits.
Of course children need to enjoy their favorite foods on occasion and certainly there are some foods your child just won't like but a lot of those icky faces they make are because the food is foreign to them. What is important is to make those less familiar foods more familiar foods. Here are a couple of tools and activities you can try to do that.
This breakfast activity is both fun for your child and a great way to introduce a variety of fresh fruits to them.
Fill little bowls with finger food sized fruit pieces of both fruits they know and love and fruits they don't know as well. Next, make a batch of small pancakes and give your child a few to decorate. Sit down together and make silly faces on the pancakes using all the great fruits you chopped up. Then eat and enjoy!
There is a chance your child will only use the less popular fruit as a nose and not eat it but just touching the fruit can bring them a step closer to being more comfortable with trying it. You can even encourage them to try a bite and let you know what they think of the fruit. Doing this activity with them is a big help as seeing you eating the fruits will also help encourage them to try. Lead by example!
Fruit or Veggie Fridays
Make trying a new fruit or vegetable a regular part of your bonding time. Take your child to the grocery store with you and have them pick out a fruit and vegetable for you to try together. You can then find a tasty recipe that your child can help you prepare and then enjoy your tasty creation together. When a child feels involved in making the food this can really help encourage them to try the dish. A few websites you can find great recipes on include:
Or check out the Recipes page on the Sensible Foodie!
Fruit and Veggie Bingo
This is another activity to encourage your child to try new things. Create a bingo card and write the names or put a picture in each square representing a fruit or vegetable you want them to try (be sure to put in some of their favorites so it won't seem impossible). Then explain to your child each time they try a fruit or veggie on the card (at least two bites) they get to put a sticker on the square. Once they get a line let them pick out a little toy from the dollar store. Don't reward them with a food treat as this send the wrong message.
Villagers and Dragons
Similar to Pancake Faces the idea is to let their imagination encourage them to try new things. Chop up veggies and cheese cubes into bite sized piece and have them represent different objects in a village. Some need little imagination like broccoli can be trees and cauliflower can be little sheep. You and your child then play as the dragons and eat the little houses, trees and villagers together. Sure they might only pop the food in their dragon mouth for the second but it's a start.