Psychologists and experts in human computer interaction develop new app to support fussy eating in children

August 3, 2018, Aston University
Psychologists and experts in human computer interaction develop new app to support fussy eating in children
Screenshot. Credit: Aston University

A team of researchers have a developed a novel app for kids aimed at getting them to eat more healthily and try more vegetables.

Eating more vegetables is associated with the prevention of chronic illnesses in later life, but fewer than one in 10 children in the UK consume the recommended amounts, with many children rejecting vegetables on sight.

The app game, Vegetable Maths Masters is designed to expose children between the ages of 3 and 7 years old to vegetables via a maths gaming app where children can practise core maths skills developed in KS1. Depending on the child's age they can count with vegetables, draw numbers with vegetables, add/ subtract with vegetables and practise multiplication and division skills.

The team of psychologists from Aston, Loughborough and De Montfort Universities, in conjunction with the British Psychological Society, used focus groups and interviews with parents, children and teachers, to discuss their views on integrating strategies to support vegetable intake within an educational platform.

Dr. Claire Farrow, Aston University said: "We have developed an app which draws on psychological research to integrate different methods known to increase interest in vegetables and eagerness to try them.

"These include repeated exposure to real images of vegetables, token rewards for playing with vegetables and 'feeding' them to other children / characters.

"Social norms also influence food preferences, for example if child characters in the game like and enjoy eating vegetables, research suggests that children are more likely to try them."

To play the game, children choose either a child character, a teddy bear or a rabbit to play with and 'feed' them vegetables throughout the game. Their character is happy and animated when they eat vegetables and gives positive verbal feedback. Children earn stars as they complete problems which can be traded for props to decorate an animated , such as a carrot with glasses, a wig, shoes and clothes.

Parents get a say in the game too, by selecting which vegetables (from a choice of 10) that they want children to play with.

Dr. Farrow, Aston University added: "The game is based around which suggest that children become less weary of vegetables and more willing to taste them the more that they are repeatedly exposed to them.

"We will be conducting further research to explore the effectiveness of the app. Our preliminary evaluation is very promising and the results suggest that children who play the game are more likely to taste the vegetables that they play with in comparison to children who play with a control Maths app."

Professor Emerita Carol McGuiness, Chair of the British Psychological Society's Education and Public Engagement Board said: "The British Psychological Society welcomes the successful launch of Vegetable Maths Masters. This fun mobile technology game for young children combines the best psychological evidence on encouraging 's health eating habits with developing their early maths skills. We are delighted to be associated with funding the projectand congratulate the design team for their innovative work."

Explore further: Research shows how to banish children's fussy eating

More information: Vegetable Maths Masters is now available for free and can be downloaded on iTunes and Android.

Related Stories

Research shows how to banish children's fussy eating

June 29, 2015
Parents could banish their children's fussy eating habits by following three simple steps, a new study suggests.                 

Creative ways to get children to eat vegetables

April 29, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Can you imagine a young child eating spinach, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts or even asparagus? Yes, it can happen. "But how?" you ask.

Sensory-based food education encourages children to eat vegetables, berries and fruit

May 30, 2018
Sensory-based food education given to 3–5 year-old children in the kindergarten increases their willingness to choose vegetables, berries and fruit, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. Sensory-based ...

Winning the veggie wars with kids

February 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—For every parent who's ever pleaded with their young child to eat "just one more bite," a nutrition expert says there are ways to get kids to eat and even enjoy vegetables.

Lack of vegetable choices in infant and toddler food is widespread

April 10, 2018
Eat your vegetables is a well-worn message that weary parents have been giving reluctant children at the dinner table for generations.

'Often and early' gives children a taste for vegetables

May 31, 2014
Exposing infants to a new vegetable early in life encourages them to eat more of it compared to offering novel vegetables to older children, new research from the University of Leeds suggests.

Recommended for you

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Effect of oral alfacalcidol on clinical outcomes in patients without secondary hyperparathyroidism

December 11, 2018
Treatment with active vitamin D did not decrease cardiovascular events in kidney patients undergoing hemodialysis, according to a research group in Japan. They have reported their research results in the December 11 issue ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

Licence to Swill: James Bond's drinking over six decades

December 10, 2018
He may be licensed to kill but fictional British secret service agent James Bond has a severe alcohol use disorder, according to an analysis of his drinking behaviour published in the Medical Journal of Australia's Christmas ...

Obesity, risk of cognitive dysfunction? Consider high-intensity interval exercise

December 10, 2018
It's fast-paced, takes less time to do, and burns a lot of calories. High-intensity interval exercise is widely recognized as the most time-efficient and effective way to exercise. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers ...

How to survive on 'Game of Thrones': Switch allegiances

December 9, 2018
Characters in the Game of Thrones TV series are more likely to die if they do not switch allegiance, and are male, according to an article published in the open access journal Injury Epidemiology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.