Taste Testing Games for Picky Eaters (and for fun!)

As I’ve shared before, I am part of a “Healthy Child & Earth” committee at our elementary school, and one of our initiatives this year was to form a Cooking & Gardening Club. This new after school club meets weekly, and the volunteers on our committee take turns teaching different lessons.

The first time I led this group of 1st through 5th graders, I explained the importance of whole grains and let the kids make their own whole-wheat pasta with a hand crank machine. Most of the parents I spoke to afterward said their kids boiled their pasta (and gobbled it right up) as soon as they got home—yay!

The second class I taught (last week) was all about taste testing. And this lesson taught me:

Taste testing games are a great way to get even the pickiest of kids to warm up to new foods!

These games are so easy, they by no means have to happen in the classroom. Today I want to share all the details so you can do this at home with your own kids (and/or their friends). This could honestly even be a fun birthday or slumber party activity (depending on how “out of the box” you like to be and how much you like the idea of positive peer pressure!).

The kids in the class enjoyed the activities much more than I expected, and by the end, several of them were saying, “Oh, I wish we could do the blind taste test game again. It was soooo fun!” Score!

Taste Testing Games for Picky Eaters (and for fun!) at 100 Days of #RealFood

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Taste Testing Activities

Here’s what we did in the one hour class that you can easily do at home with your own kids:

1. Five Flavors Game*

  • The concept of the five different main flavors of food was explained: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory.
  • Each child was given a plate with one food that represented each flavor: sugar, salt, lemon, unsweetened chocolate, and Parmesan cheese.
  • They were also given a worksheet so they could match the foods to their flavors and give themselves a point if they got it right.
  • Note: This game was not blindfolded.
  • As a group we reviewed the answers so they could add up their score—all in good fun of course.
  • Lesson: Remember to think about how your food tastes when you’re eating it!

2. Blind Taste Test Game

  • The kids were asked to pick a partner and given blindfolds (made out of scrap fabric).
  • Each child was given a plate with two different colored bell peppers, carrots, raisins, apples, and grapes.
  • They were asked to give their worksheet to their partner, and then whoever was going first put the blindfold on.
  • The non-blindfolded partner handed the other the first food to try and said something like, “Tell me if this bell pepper is red or green.”
  • They could then try the other color to help them decide the answer, and their partner gave them a point (or not) on their worksheet.
  • Lesson: Don’t judge food by how it looks, but instead by how it tastes!

3. Make Your Own Guacamole

  • Each kid was given a quarter of a ripe avocado, a big pinch of salt, a lime wedge, cilantro leaves, and bell pepper slices (for dipping).
  • They were told that these were the ingredients to make guacamole, and it was time to get to work!
  • We talked about taste testing their creation to see what needed to be added. They were told to make it to their own liking (they were in charge!).
  • Some ate all of the guacamole, some tried it (for the first time), and some just had fun “cooking.”
  • Lesson: Cooking is fun!

Don’t forget to download your free copy of my worksheet right here in either PDF format (ready to print) or Word format, in case you want to change some of the food offerings.

Super Picky Eater Note

When a couple of the kids told me they were really apprehensive about trying these new foods (okay, in their words, “I hate all of these foods and do NOT want to eat them at all!), I told them the only way to play the game was to try the foods. I also said that trying a food they didn’t like wouldn’t hurt them (rest assured), and that they could spit it out if they wanted to.

One kid in particular was still giving me push back, so I also suggested just touching the food to her tongue instead of eating it, and that worked (which is major progress for those that are super picky/limited).

*For More Taste Testing Games (a new book!)

The “Five Flavors Game” was inspired by a new book called Getting to Yum, which was written by the same author as French Kids Eat Everything—Karen Le Billon! This new book, which is available for preorder on Amazon, is FULL of fun taste testing games and other ideas that will help you transform your picky child into an eager eater.

I was able to preview a copy and absolutely love the whole concept. And thankfully I previewed the book right as I had to come up with actitivies for our little club, so this wonderful inspiration could not have come at a better time! :)

Taste Testing Games for Picky Eaters (Getting to Yum Book ) at 100 Days of #RealFood

Let the Adults Play, Too!

The other adult volunteering that day happened to be my husband (I like to sign him up for things – ha!), and when my daughter and her partner finished first, they asked if they could do the blind taste test on him! I think this is a perfect example of how pictures can speak a thousand words.

Just check out these two VERY giggly girls blind folding a grown man and watching him guess a bunch of foods (mostly) wrong. I think it’s safe to say they weren’t the only ones having loads of fun. :)

Blind taste test games help kids try new foods on 100 Days of #RealFood

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32 thoughts on “Taste Testing Games for Picky Eaters (and for fun!)”

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  1. Thank you for these ideas! I have 3 kids and my youngest two love all types of fruits and vegetables but my oldest is such a picky eater. I am going to see if these work and I am also going to get the book you suggested.

  2. I see that this was for a cooking/gardening club. I love the ideas that you have shared here. Do you have links to any of the gardening lessons that you guys did?

  3. I’ve been trying these games with my kids (ages 9,7,4,2) over the past couple of months. It really works to actually get them to try (happily) certain foods they normally wouldn’t want to touch. I’ve seen good progress in my kids accepting new foods with these games. It does take some effort and energy on my part to do this with them, but I think it’s worth it.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. The gardening/cooking club was an extension of this school committee: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/10/04/the-healthy-child-and-earth-committee-at-our-school/. Here is one of the presentations we did with students: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/04/19/how-to-talk-kids-about-real-food/. We had several moms involved and all developed a lesson to cover each week. There are many online curriculum to follow if you are looking for a template: http://extension.uga.edu/k12/school-gardens/curriculum/index.cfm, http://edibleschoolgardens.com.au/ and http://www.csgn.org/curriculum. ~Amy

  4. I will be playing this game with my daughters Girl Scout troop in a few weeks. We are doing a journey where they connect with themselves and others, and one way is through healthy eating. Can’t wait to give it a go!!

  5. I am all for trying new and healthy foods, but honestly this game makes me extremely uncomfortable. I myself have severe food allergies, and so many kids do. I know many young children with severe food allergies and can completely picture them playing this “game” to go along with a group. Or even worse, kids playing this game unsupervised by an adult. One small fraction of an allergen could literally be fatal. I think we need to be promoting knowing what is in food…not disguising or eating things unknown.

    1. Sounds like the foods to be tasted were known, just the order was unknown. By the time they start elementary school, in my experience, most kids know and can (and will!) tell you if they have an allergy and their teacher will know as well.

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Also, this was an after school club and we had information on food allergies/sensitivities for all participants. ~Amy

  6. I just tried this with my daughter’s 1st grade class yesterday and I think it was a huge success! We did the same three stations listed in this posting. The only change we made was that I substituted melons (honeydew and cantaloupe) for carrots as I couldn’t find any other colored carrots besides orange right now. I manned the guacamole station and was amazed at how excited the kids were to do this activity and how many kids asked for me avocado or guacamole. The teacher was thrilled too at how many kids told her they tried something new and liked it, even the pickiest eaters in the group.

  7. I just want to say thanks for the guacamole-making idea and the takeaway that “cooking is fun!” I made guac with my kindergartener last summer and I was rather disappointed that she didn’t like eating it (also, it meant I had to eat an entire avacado’s worth on my own – I like guac, but I can’t eat that much before it gets brown and gross). I’m trying to remember that sometimes it’s just the process, and it’s OK to make something and then realize it didn’t turn out so great or you don’t like it (I’ve had that experience myself when trying new recipes!)

  8. I think this is a great idea for older kids, but I’m having problems with my 26 month old. He ate all kinds of baby foods, but now he’s really stuck on trying new things. He loves fruits, but not veggies. He’s very picky and his diet is limited, but I eat a very healthy variety. I keep putting new things on his plate, but he rarely tries them. Do you have suggestions for younger kids? Thanks!

    1. My niece was like that too (she’s 3 1/2 now) at about that age. She suddenly decided she didn’t like most fruits and veggies after eating them no problem before. We went on family vacation during this time, and she decided that she would eat anything that came off of my plate or my sister’s plate (this is my brother’s kid) but wouldn’t eat anything her parents offered her. The only thing we could figure out is that she figured that if her aunts were eating it it must be good. She would also get ‘protective’ of her plate, if one of use ate something off of it she would sometimes react by eating that item. Not sure if that would help you or not.

      1. Thank you! I’ve wondered if I try to keep the healthy foods “off limits” like I try to limit sweets, then maybe reverse psychology would work? Like, “No, you can’t have these vegetables until you eat your fruit.” or something like that. Kids are one big science experiment, huh?! My 4 year old nephew is coming for a visit next month and that kid eats everything healthy, so I’m hoping some of his good habits will wear off on my son in the few days they have together. We’ll see. :)

  9. Critical Reader

    I have organized a couple of taste tests at work. I would not have too much hope for you second test: red vs. green apple, purple vs. orange carrot, etc. would be too difficult for my testers (adults with sensory training) ;-)

  10. This reminds me of an experience I had when setting up the vegetable garden in our local school. We were planting tomatoes and one child announced that he hated all tomatoes except for cherry tomatoes. I had some larger heirloom tomatoes in different colours which I had cut up for the children to taste. After much encouragement he tried a small piece of a large green variety, which he loved. He even went back for seconds. I later discovered he went home and asked his mum to plant some of the same variety in their own garden.
    The work you are doing is so important, and you are to be congratulated for it. It is so important to establish good eating patterns in kids whilst they are young, and before they know better :)

  11. Your ideas are just fantastic. So creative and fun. I would love to start something like this at my school where I teach. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  12. My super picky kiddo did a blind taste test activity at school. He threw up. He is so sensitive to texture and smell along with taste and has been since he was a baby. I think these activities are great for most reluctant kids, but every now and then you might come across a puker. ;) He has improved over the years but sometimes still gags just at the smell of new foods.

    1. You may already know this, but that sounds like sensory processing disorder. I believe there are therapies that can help (though from your last comment maybe he already has).

    2. Hi Alli, My son, now age 13, he has been a “picky” eater since birth. Only now do I realize that he is not a picky eater, but a selective eater, two very different things. This has been a game changer. No longer do I read about picky eater solutions (well for him anyway!)nor am I left feeling bad by other well meaning parents. If you ever feel like they don’t really get your situation when reading or listening to advice, consider the possibility. I always felt that in his case, it was not a phase nor a behavioral issue, but an eating disorder, so it is encouraging to finally read about kids who are truly like mine. http://mealtimehostage.com/2012/10/16/beyond-picky-you-are-not-alone/

      1. Justine, I think you’re right, but my son (who is 9 now) isn’t as extremely sensitive as some children. He will now eat chicken, many different fresh fruits, cheese, pancakes/waffles/french toast/bread (and all combinations of bread and cheese like mac and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese, etc), scrambled eggs, and pasta sauce. He’ll accept spinach on his pizza if it is chopped very small and marinara sauce if it has a smooth texture. He will eat mild fish such as flounder if it is breaded and fried (I make it myself with whole grains), and recently tried fried calamari at a restaurant and loved it. Other meats will make him gag just from the smell. He will taste veggies every now and then but can’t swallow them. It doesn’t bother me when people imply he’s spoiled; I have two other kids who have very different eating preferences although we’ve treated all three of them the same at mealtimes. I don’t feel bad any more because I know people mean well and they don’t really understand the situation. I am thankful that my son’s food issues are relatively mild and have improved with time and patience without needing expert help. When he was a toddler, he literally only ate bread and cheese. That was a challenge I am glad we’ve left behind!

  13. Hi Lisa,

    I would love to start a club like this in our school. I am a school counselor in a middle school and we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful school lunch with loads of fresh fruit and veggie options, I think most of our students skip over these items as they’re not used to having them in their diet. How did you go about starting this club and did you have to have buy in from your school?

    Thanks so much! Love your blog!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Amy. This club evolved out of a committee we have at the kid’s school. Here is more info on that: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/10/04/the-healthy-child-and-earth-committee-at-our-school/. We have a bunch of little clubs that take place after school. The Garden Club is run by a handful of parents, including Lisa and myself, who were part of the Healthy Child and Earth Committee. You will need buy-in from the school but it sounds like it might not be too difficult for you to get that. :) ~Amy

  14. what a wonderful idea, Lisa. I’m thinking it could be fun to play the blind taste test before the kids put together their own homemade mini pizzas at a party. Maybe some of the ingredients would make it onto the pizza.