Briana Lopez B.A., Kimberly Ciccone, Raúl Ortiz, Ahna Parker, Anita Fuglestad Ph.D.
Dr. Anita Fuglestad | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology
It is common for preschool children to demonstrate neophobia, the fear of trying new foods, which can make them more reluctant to accept fruits and vegetables. As a result, many parents struggle to find adequate solutions to promote healthy eating. The aim of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of using pretend play in preschool children to improve food acceptance. Children from the UNF preschool were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: the control group with no pretend play (n= 15), and the experimental group with pretend play (n=12). Each group first participated in a play session where they were exposed to their assigned conditions. Children were then offered broccoli. Their acceptance of the broccoli was evaluated by the amount eaten (by weight), behavior coding, and self-report. Preliminary results will be presented, and the feasibility of this work will be discussed. Data from this pilot study will be used to refine the pretend play manipulations and to design larger-scale studies. The goal of this line of research is to help parents establish healthy eating habits with their children through positive experiences in accepting new foods.