There are various ways you can reward children for trying and enjoying food without falling into the trap of using food as a bribe.
Positive reinforcement and rewards can be effective ways to bring about a desired behaviour. Children respond particularly well to these.
However, as explained in the food as a reward section, using one food as a reward for eating another food has been associated with negative consequences and so the use of food as a bargaining tool or as a bribe is not recommended.
Positive reinforcement works by rewarding the child for tasting a food. But it does not work by punishing the child if s/he refuses to taste it.
Instead of giving food rewards, there is a range of alternatives that you can try.
- Children love to be told ‘well done’ so words of simple praise can go a long way.
- Each time your child tastes a refused food, give them a sticker, badge, or rubber stamp. This gives them an instant reward that they can proudly show off.
- To keep children motivated, use a reward chart with a non-food prize at the end. Each time your child tastes a refused food, give them a star on their chart. After 5 stars, give them a prize. This can help them to associate the reward beyond the here and now.
- As an alternative to stickers, buy some small, inexpensive, non-food prizes (e.g., crayons, stickers, ball) that can be given out when a reward is needed. Consider making this even more fun by wrapping the prizes and doing this as a lucky dip.
- A favourite activity can be a reward. Let your child choose what they would like to do and give them your undivided attention.
- Outings can be rewards, such as a trip to the park, library, swimming pool, shops, or other favourite place.