How do you get picky eaters to eat better? Design the message in a healthy fun way for children.
This book I illustrated and wrote to help picky eaters and am currently developing a new version with a leading eating-disorders psychologist at Great Ormond’s Street Hospital. It’s the story of a tiny zoo that lives inside a child’s belly, that must be fed in order to keep them from growling. The idea is that much of the tools parents use to encourage kids to eat are verbal. What would happen if there was a visual storytelling tool to change children’s attitudes?
The results so far show that the story and images engage children in making better food choices by giving children criteria for selecting their food through colour.
Here is one parent’s “Zoo book moment”:
Rylie comes in the kitchen and says, “Mom, I need to feed my penguin.”
I said, “What?”
“You know. I need some of those blue things to feed my penguin.”
“Oh, you want some blueberries.”
“Yes, can I have some blueberries so my penguin isn’t so hungry.”
We haven’t even read it for over a month. They really like it though and remember it. Thanks for making our mealtimes more entertaining.
Here are the animals from the book…
OVERVIEW: Some children fight with parents about
eating healthy food. How can design change this
behaviour for the better?
OBSERVATION showed that children sometimes use
food as a way to test out relationship boundaries with
parents. Such as pushing away a plate of carrots to
communicate control, or requesting a different meal
from siblings to ask for attention.
CURRENT SOLUTIONS often depend on verbal
communication, such as parents telling children that
they will go hungry if they don’t eat their food, or
using words to ask the child to eat ‘four more bites’
and they will be rewarded later.
WHAT IF mealtime, instead of being a negotiation of
words, used a visual storybook to help children
imagine the good that food could do for them? Or
even the good that the food would be doing for
someone special besides themselves?
DESIGNING a storybook that told of the adventures of
a tiny zoo that growled inside their belly allowed
children to think of food in the context of feeding their
belly rather than feeding their person. Images of
animals on different types of healthy foods reinforced
this idea as parents quizzed children on what each
animal liked to eat.
RESULTS showed that children were more willing to try
new foods and be less picky when parents used the
storybooks and method. However not every parent
understood how to incorporate the method into
COLLABORATING with an eating disorders psychologist
at Great Ormond’s Street Hospital in London, a new
edition of the book is going to be tested in a three
phase trial based on expert feedback and parents
responses. It will also include a parent’s guide.