What is a learning plate or learning bowl and how does it help with fussy eaters?

Food can be incredibly stimulating for children. It involves all their senses- taste, sight, touch and smell. This can be challenging for little people who are feeling anxious about either an eating environment, a specific food or perhaps they have sensory food aversions.

To make the eating occasion less confronting you can use the technique of having a learning plate or learning bowl.

How a learning bowl works is:

  • You serve the meal up like you normally do (perhaps in a family style setting or using Division of Responsibility)
  • The child has their regular “main plate” for the foods they feel comfortable and happy to be there and potentially eat AND
  • The child has an additional plate / bowl where they place the foods that they are learning to like or even simply learning about.

In the above learning bowl, there is a common occupier,  broccoli.

At Little People Nutrition we chat with the kids about “learning about foods” and that sometimes we might not actually like them. And that is okay.


“You don’t have to like it, you just have to try it. And trying it might be touching, smelling, listening, kissing or licking the food. You can eat it if you would like to as well, but you don’t have to.”


By having a new food or a “learning to like” food in the learning bowl, it is a safe place for the child to acknowledge the food, touch it, smell it even, but if they don’t want to put it in their mouth, they don’t have to.

The new food isn’t touching their “main plate” foods which they would like to eat, therefore we know that they will eat some of their food at that meal.

In time they might add their learning bowl foods onto their main plate. They still might not eat them, or perhaps they do.  Either way, that is okay too.


“Let’s pop that one into your learning bowl, as we are learning about it at the moment. If you would like to touch it, smell it or play with it, you can. Of course, you can eat it too. But it is up to you.”


Exposure of food for young children is key. It can take 10, 20, 30 times to build the trust to actually try a specific food and that is okay and very normal.

So next time a little person, at home or at childcare, feels uncomfortable about eating a food from a meal being offered, think about offering them a learning bowl to pop it in.

If you are interested in Little People Nutrition’s journey of developing childcare menus, follow along on Instagram with the #littlepeoplemenu.

We’d love to see you at The Golden Grove soon too!

Or how about an incursion.