Kids won’t eat veggies? Try giving sticker rewards

2011-12-14 11:24

If your preschoolers turn up their noses at carrots or celery, a small reward like a sticker for taking even a taste may help get them to eat previously shunned foods, according to a UK study.

Though it might seem obvious that a reward could tempt young children to eat their vegetables, the idea is actually controversial, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That’s because some studies have shown that rewards can backfire and cause children to lose interest in foods they already liked, said Jane Wardle, a researcher at University College London who worked on the study.

Verbal praise, such as “Brilliant! You’re a great vegetable taster”, did not work as well.

“We would recommend that parents consider using small non-food rewards, given daily for tasting tiny pieces of the food – smaller than half a little finger nail,” Wardle said in an email.

The study found that when parents gave their three- and four-year-olds a sticker each time they took a “tiny taste” of a disliked vegetable, it gradually changed the children’s attitudes.

Over a couple of weeks, children rewarded this way were giving higher ratings to vegetables, with the foods moving up the scale from between 1 and 2 – somewhere between “yucky” and “just okay” – to between 2 and 3, or “just okay” and “yummy”.

The children were also willing to eat more of the vegetables – either carrots, celery, cucumber, red pepper, cabbage or sugar snap peas – in laboratory taste tests, the study said.

Researchers randomly assigned 173 families to one of three groups. In one, parents used stickers to reward their child each time they took a tiny sample of a disliked vegetable.

A second group of parents used verbal praise. The third group, where parents used no special veggie-promoting tactics, served as a “control”.

Parents in the reward groups offered their child a taste of the “target” vegetable every day for 12 days.

Soon after, children in the sticker group were giving higher ratings to the vegetables – and were willing to eat more in the research lab, going from an average of 5g at the start to about 10g after the 12-day experience.

The turnaround also seemed to last, with preschoolers in the sticker group still willing to eat more of the once-shunned veggie three months later.

Why didn’t the verbal praise work?

Wardle said the parents’ words may have seemed “insincere” to their children.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.