A couple of Thanksgivings ago, I was faced with my first big dinner for my daughter's new husband and his two kids, ages 4 and 7, whom I had never met. These kids were sweet, but notoriously picky eaters, I was warned. Apparently it was difficult to get them to eat anything but mac and cheese without a scene. And I sure didn't want a scene at our first holiday together!
So I thought up "Taster Turkeys" as a way to both break the ice and also to encourage them to try a few different foods. I used egg-shaped styrofoam balls as bodies and spray painted them brown. I cut out a base of felt for the feet, made beaks from a piece of pipecleaner, and glued on those "googly" eyes. I bought a small bag of feathers for the tail. I made one complete with tail, so they had an example, but the other two had no tails - yet!
Just before dinner I explained to the kids that these were Taster Turkeys, and that for every food they tried, they could poke in a feather and the turkey would little by little "grow" a tail. The turkeys and a few feathers sat next to each of their plates. By the time dinner was finished, their Taster Turkeys had tails, the kids were happy, and they'd managed to try quite a few different foods, because they wanted their turkeys to have big tails!
The next month was Christmas, and rather than making "Taster Trees" as the kids enthusiastically suggested (!), I decided I'd involve them in planning the menu instead. I printed out online photos of various vegetables, meats, salad choices, jellos, and desserts (all of which were things I would have made). I mailed the sheet to them and asked them to circle what they would each like to eat for Christmas dinner to "help" me plan the menu. When they finished, they were to mail the sheet back to me.
My daughter advised me that the kids were thrilled to get some mail, and they took their job of circling foods very seriously. When they arrived on Christmas, they were more willing to eat, because they'd helped decide the choices. They even drew a couple of pictures of their own, labeling them with "dill pickles" and "Swiss cheese."
Fortunately, they soon after outgrew the picky eating phase, but these ideas did come in handy when we were all getting to know one another.
By Janet from Howell, MI