As any parent can tell you, preschoolers are seldom shy about expressing their preferences for food, whether that means peanut butter sandwiches cut into triangles or noodles served with only butter. How to expand kids’ culinary horizons? Below, real moms share tricks of the trade.  

Kids in the Kitchen

“I try to involve my kids in cooking. Ella and Jake are really interested in how oatmeal changes from uncooked to cooked and how runny raw eggs become scrambled. Now at our house it’s not just the eating that’s family time; it’s also the food preparation time we share. There’s always some way they can contribute, and it makes them more likely to eat it.” —Jasmin T.

Expanding Horizons

“Once my son went on a food jag where he would only eat peanut butter sandwiches and apples. So I made a rule: He had to at least taste what everyone else was eating and sit quietly while we ate. Then he could make his own sandwich, but I cut the apple slices for him.” —Nora B.

“I recommend taking your child shopping with you and letting him pick out one new type of produce each time. We’ve had star fruit, radishes, pineapple, Japanese cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, orange cauliflower, and purple beans this way. Not every choice turns out to be a hit, but my son always tries what he picks, and some make it into weekly meals.” —Gina W.

“The trick is to keep offering a food that your child says he doesn’t like. Just forget you had that conversation previously and offer it again in a week or two. Sometimes I do something different with it the next time, like adding a cheese sauce to asparagus first and then chopping it up into risotto next.” —Betsy W.

Snacking on the Go

“I keep pouches in a special bag that we set by the door. When we’re rushing around, there’s always some quick nutrition in there for a snack when we’re away from home. I add some fresh fruit to the bag, too, right before we leave.” —Veronica G.

Instead of Juice

“Flavored waters have become very popular in our house. I put grapes or watermelon, lemon, or kiwi slices—almost any kind of fruit—in a pitcher of water in the refrigerator. It’s always handy and tastes better than plain water. My husband and I also like basil, lavender, or other herbs, but Aidan prefers fruit.” —Lila J.