While exposing our little ones to a wide variety of textures is so important during the first two years, offering raw vegetables can be tricky. You might be wondering when can I start giving raw vegetables to my child? Isn’t it a choking hazard?
I definitely had those same questions and anxieties, and I truly hope reading this post will help put your mind at ease, provide direction, and boost your confidence.
Very important: Big pieces of raw vegetables are choking hazards so definitely stay away from them until 4 years of age. It just might be that your child is really good at chewing and can handle them pretty well. However, you just never know as even adults can choke on them. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Here are some ways I found helpful in introducing and serving raw vegetables in different/fun ways that will help encourage your child to try! There is no set timeline (that I’m aware of anyway) as to at exactly what age you should try offering them in ways I suggest here.
Why? Because every child is different. It depends on many different factors, such as the number of teeth and your child’s eating/chewing skills. So be observant, stay close, and move forward as you and your child feel confident and ready. There’s no need to rush this process. If you’re super anxious, your little one will sense that.
Here are some benefits to introducing raw veggies during the early years:
great for strengthening their jaw
great for practicing taking bites
they taste different from cooked vegetables. Introducing your child to a wide variety of flavors and textures early on will go a long way in helping increase food acceptance down the road.
- makes lunchbox packing so much easier!
Raw Vegetable Progression:
- Finely grated: This is a great place to start! I started offering when C was around 14 months. He probably could’ve handled this earlier on, but I personally didn’t feel ready to offer it to him until this time. And to my pleasant surprise he absolutely loved it from the get-go. You can do this with any vegetables (e.g. cucumber, zucchini) and mix into various grains, pasta, yogurt, etc.
- Thin matchsticks. We are talking super thin.
- Thicker matchsticks. As you see that your child is handling the thin strips pretty well, you can start offering thicker ones. I did this gradually.
- Have fun with shapes. My son really had a ton of fun once I started introducing different shapes! Turn them into noodles, use different cooking cutters (I LOVE these – aff link) and present them with a plate full of their favorite animal friends, shapes, etc.
- Super important – make sure they are sitting down at the table with their hips, knees, and ankles at 90 degree angle and with no distractions
- Continue to offer consistently and persistently whether or not your child eats the food
- Kids can be shy about trying new foods
- Shapes matter and can really spark their interest
- Serve new/disliked food along WITH something familiar (like dips).
- Once your child starts to accept a particular shape/size or vegetable, serve it with a new shape or vegetable you’re wanting to introduce. Your child will find it comforting to see food that they’re already familiar with and so will be more likely to branch out and try the new food. If not, that’s ok! That counts as exposure, and you know what I always say. Every Exposure counts!
- Place just several pieces at a time at first as too much on the plate can be overwhelming
- Don’t pressure. It never works
- Instead, let them have fun exploring!
- Role model. This may not seem like much, but you eating alongside them is so powerful! Have them see you biting and chewing and enjoying!
I’m soooo not an arts and craft person, but this holiday-inspired food art ended up being an AWESOME way to encourage my toddler to give raw veggies a try. All you need are these cookie cutters! He literally ate everything you see here with much fascination and enthusiasm. Note that there’s one measly zucchini on the ornament snack. But that might just be what your child needs to muster up courage to try a new/disliked food
Hope this was helpful! Have you introduced raw veggies to your toddler? If so, at what age? If not, hope this eases your anxiety and inspires you to have fun exploring with your child!
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