Research studies tell us that children that have food neophobia (the fear of new foods) are also children that are sensitive to tactile stimuli. In other words, they often don't like to get their hands messy. We also know that a child who is unlikely to want to touch something, is even less likely to want to eat it. So, what do we do? Create repeated positive tactile experiences without the pressure of eating. Here is an example of a fairly easy activity: digging for treasure in Jello!
You can suspend items in jello in a couple different ways:
1. Make a batch, let it harden, put items in, add another batch on top
2. Make a batch, wait until it starts to thicken and push items into the middle (I used this method here)
I used toy airplanes and gummies in our dig for treasure, but you can use whatever your child is into. Or, if they love jello, put in new foods that you want to expose them to such as fruit! Then you can encourage them to take bites, lick the jello off, or even just expose them to touching the fruit by digging it out of the jello.
Jello is a fun tool because it also is a great exposure to smells. However, keep that in mind if your child is sensitive to smell!
You can also push items into the jello while you dig for an extra texture to touch - we did cereal.
Encourage different interactions: smells, licks, tastes. It's also a good idea to keep wipes or a washcloth on hand and tell your child that they can use wipe it off at any point if it becomes uncomfortable. Remember, this should be a positive experience with no pressure!