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Pool time with her grandkids is a day Christine always looks forward to. Watching the kids play in the water just brings her back to those special summers when she was younger. The only thing needed to complete the day? Sweet figs served over yogurt!
Christine knew that figs were a nutritious and sweet treat, so her eyes lit up when she spotted some local figs at the farmers market earlier in the week.
On pool day, Christine prepared the figs and yogurt for snack while the kids took a break from swimming. She was excited to share one of her favorite snacks with her grandchildren.
Lucy and Levi settled down hungry for their meal. They both took a bite and Lucy immediately spit out her piece, “Ugh this feels icky in my mouth! Why is it so grainy?”
“Icky?” Grandma repeated. “Figs are delicious! Just take two more bites–you may enjoy it!”
“No, Grandma, it tastes so weird!” whined Lucy.
We know that feeding kids can be extremely tricky, which is why we want to help you get out of these food battles. Reversing picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you do that! Here’s our guide to help you teach your child to eat figs. You’ll learn:
- The benefits of figs for kids
- How to serve figs to picky eaters
- How to talk about figs to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what figs do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with figs
The Benefits of Figs for Kids
Christine was right! Figs can be a simple, sweet snack for the kiddos–and a nutritious one too! They are packed with nutrients, including antioxidants.
Antioxidants are one of the body’s soldiers that help protect and defend our cells from damage. We love antioxidants because over time, they promote strong cells. When our cells are strong, so is our body.
Besides antioxidants, figs are also a source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps your child’s brain development and function.
How to Serve Figs to Picky Eaters
Figs are often eaten raw, but they can also be baked, roasted and caramelized. They can be eaten on their own like an apple, sliced or peeled. Christine’s favorite fig snack included yogurt! Dried figs are also a popular snack. When serving picky eaters, we recommend varying the way you serve figs (and all foods for that matter!). If you served it sliced the first time, try serving it whole, diced or baked the next time. Changing up the way your fussy eater sees new foods could prevent them from getting stuck in a rut.
You may also want to try serving small, micro portions to selective eaters. We refer to pea-sized portions of food as micro portions. These tiny portions are less intimidating for fussy eaters than adult-sized portions. Your picky eater may be more comfortable with a small piece of fig rather than a whole fig or even a slice.
Lastly, we recommend not pressuring a child to eat any food. When we look back at Christine’s situation, she tried to make Lucy eat the fig. By putting pressure on Lucy, Christine may have unintentionally made Lucy less willing to eat it.
There are different ways an adult may pressure a child to eat. Here are a few examples:
“You liked figs last week! Just take one bite.”
“I need you to try one bite from each thing on your plate.”
“You are not leaving this table until you clear your plate!”
Removing pressure from mealtimes is a great way to help your child learn to enjoy a new food at their own pace.
Choking Prevention Information: General Guidelines
- Cut in 1/8s (and grind seeds & nuts) for age 1. Think 1/2 a pinky finger size.
- Quarter (and smash seeds & nuts) for age 2
- Half (or slivered nut pieces) for age 3
- Most kids are fine to eat unmodified food at or after age 4
How to Talk About Figs to Help Your Child Try Them
Picky kids tend to use negative language about new food. “This makes me want to puke!” “I’m not going to eat that!” “Ewww, that looks like poop.” Negative language like this actually reinforces their pickiness. It can make it much harder for them to learn to try a new food.
Great news, though! You can give them new words to use. You can help your child to use these new words through your own actions; this is called modeling. When talking about food, use a wide range of neutral words that are neither positive nor negative.
If you use positive words, a picky eater may think you are trying to trick them into eating the food. If you use negative words, your picky eater definitely won’t want to eat it.
This is why neutral words are the perfect balance to help your child understand that they may learn to like a food in the future.
Talking about food differently won’t lead to immediate results. But it is an important part of our strategy to help you get your child to eat figs in the long run.
Here are some neutral words you can use to describe figs to your selective eater:
- Medium size
How to Help Your Child Understand What Figs Do in the Body
The way we talk about food with kids can determine how likely they would be to try a new food. For example, if you say, “This fig is a healthy food,” your child may decide they don’t want to eat it before they even try it because they had a previously bad experience with “healthy food.”
Trying to convince a child like Lucy that she needs to eat figs usually doesn’t end well. Instead, you can start to talk about what foods do in your child’s body when it naturally comes up.
We want to share information that a child can comprehend. We also want to help them make the connection that food plays a role in their body.
Here are some messages to share with your kid about figs. You can come up with your own as well.
Age 0-3: Figs have skin just like you! Did you know figs can help your skin?
Age 3-5: Figs have skin that protect them. Figs can also help our skin stay strong and healthy to protect us, just like armor!
Age 6-11: Figs have antioxidants for our cells. Cells are building blocks for our body. Antioxidants keep our cells strong and help our cells live long and healthy lives.
Age 12-18: Figs contain vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that promotes strong cells and helps protect our cells .
Figs Food Play Activity
Food activities can help kids learn to enjoy new foods. When kids look at, touch, smell, and eventually taste a new food through these food activities, they may be learning to like it.
Food activities also desensitize the body’s sensory system. When there is a new sense, the brain may automatically see it as a danger and could trigger the fight or flight system. “Desensitize” means that your child’s body becomes more used to the food. Then, once your child is familiar with the food, it doesn’t seem so smelly, so slimy, or so sour to them. When your child’s body and brain are used to the food, they can learn to taste it. They may even learn to like it.
Food play can be as simple as having your child help prepare food with you. It can also be more fun and exciting if you want to put more time into them.
Fig activities aren’t going to make your child learn to like figs overnight. This can be a process that takes time. For more selective kids or extremely picky eaters, start small with looking and smelling activities before moving on to more interactive activities that involve touching and tasting.
Here is an example of a fig activity for kids. If you need more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning to like new foods, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
Fig Finger Art
Age group: 3-5
- 1-2 sealable sandwich bags
- 4-5 fresh figs
- One bowl
- Spoons and forks
1. Remove the insides of the fig and discard skin. Place figs in bowl
2. Smash figs with fork and place inside sealable sandwich bags.
3. Take turns drawing cool shapes through the sealable bag.
For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed
Cherry, Kendra. “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” Medically review by Steven Gans, MD. The American Institute of Stress, August 21, 2019. https://www.stress.org/how-the-fight-or-flight-response-works.
“Fig FAQs.” Valley Fig Growers, March 18, 2021. https://valleyfig.com/health-nutrition/fig-faqs/.
“Antioxidants.” CS Mott Children’s Hospital. University of Michigan Health, September 23, 2020. https://www.mottchildren.org/health-library/aa111137.
“Vitamin B6: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 26, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/.
“Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine).” Mount Sinai Health System. Accessed July 24, 2021. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine.
“Antioxidants: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 2013. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth.
Shoemaker, SaVanna. “All You Need to Know About Figs.” Healthline, June 3, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/figs-benefits.