THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND VEGETABLE MATHS MASTERS
Eating more vegetables is associated with the prevention of chronic illnesses in later life, but fewer than 1 in 10 children in the UK consume the recommended amount of vegetables. Many children reject vegetables on sight and repeatedly exposing and offering vegetables to children in a non-forceful way seems to be key to encouraging children to become familiar with, taste and like them. Visually exposing children to vegetables with images and picture books has also been linked to greater acceptance of vegetables in young children.
We have developed an app which draws on psychological research to integrate different methods known to increase interest in vegetables and eagerness to try them, these include:
• Repeatedly exposing children to real images of vegetables in a fun way.
• Providing token rewards for playing with vegetables and “feeding” them to other children and characters in the game.
• Modelling eating vegetables; children see other children and characters in the game like and enjoy eating vegetables, making eating them more familiar.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THE RESEARCH THAT WE HAVE PUBLISHED THAT SUGGESTS THAT THESE STRATEGIES ARE EFFECTIVE:
The benefits of repeated exposure to foods:
• Holley, C., Farrow, C., & Haycraft, E. (2017). A systematic review of methods for increasing vegetable consumption in early childhood, Current Nutrition Reports, 6: 157-170.
• Holley, C., Haycraft, E., & Farrow, C. (2015). 'Why don't you try it again?' A comparison of parent led, home based interventions aimed at increasing children's consumption of a disliked vegetable, Appetite, 87, 215-22.
Other children and social norms can shape food choices:
• Houldcroft, L., Haycraft, E., & Farrow, C. (2014). Peer and Friend Influences on Children’s Eating. Social Development, 1, 19-40.
• Thomas, J. M., Robinson, E. L., Aveyard, P., Jebb, S. A., Herman, C. P., & Higgs, S. (2017). Using a descriptive norm message to increase vegetable selection in a workplace restaurant setting. Health Psychology, 36, 1026-1033.
• Thomas, J. M., Liu, J., Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Herman, C. P., & Higgs. S. (2016). The effects of liking norms and descriptive norms on vegetable consumption: a randomised experiment. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 442.
The impact of non-food rewards on tasting:
• Mitchell, G., Farrow, C., & Haycraft, E. (2013). Parental influences on children's eating behaviour and characteristics of successful parent-focussed interventions. Appetite, 60 (1), 85-94.
• Holley, C., Haycraft, E., & Farrow, C. (2015). 'Why don't you try it again?' A comparison of parent led, home based interventions aimed at increasing children's consumption of a disliked vegetable, Appetite, 87, 215-22
Playing games with food increases willingness to taste them:
• Coulthard, H., Ahmed, S., 2016. Non taste exposure techniques to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children: the effects of stimulus type and task. Food Qual. Pref. 61, 50-54.
• Coulthard, H., Sealy, A., 2017. Play with your food! Sensory play is associated with tasting of fruits and vegetables in preschool children. Appetite 113, 84-90.
Preliminary testing of the app suggests that children who enjoy playing with the app are more likely to recognise the vegetables that they have played with. We are now conducting research to evaluate whether children who play with Vegetable Maths Masters are more willing to taste the vegetables that they play with in the app.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN THE CHILD FEEDING GUIDE:
The Child Feeding Guide is a resource which we have developed for parents and professionals to support healthy eating in children and provide strategies to tackle fussy eating.
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