Kids Collect Better Eating Habits with Toys

Children are more likely to choose healthier foods that are paired with a collectible toy

(RxWiki News) The biggest question most parents ask is how do you get your kids to eat healthy? It might seem impossible at times, but researchers believe they found the key – collectible toys.

There is a long standing debate on whether or not kids should be enticed by toys, especially when the foods that come with those toys are not particularly healthy. Researchers believe that the food doesn’t really matter as long as there is a collectible toy; kids will eat almost anything and even like it.

"Empower kids to eat healthier right from the start."

Obesity has become a huge problem in America because every one in three adults are now obese. Children are affected as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 17 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are now obese.

With this problem in mind, states are trying to put bans on toys with fast-food kids’ meals because many people have the growing belief that toys in fast-food meals are only giving kids more reason to eat unhealthy. However Anna McAlister, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and T. Bettina Cornwell, Ph.D., from the University of Oregon, found that the idea of collectible toys had an influence on a child’s choice on choosing healthier foods.

The two-part study included children between the ages of two and five. The first study included 85 preschoolers who were shown pictures of six meal combinations. One set was a heavily topped pizza with a side of fries and a small soda with no toy, non-collectible toy truck, or collectible monster. The other set was soup with veggies and milk combined with the same three types of toys.

As expected, children chose the pizza deal when compared to meals without toys. However, meals without any toys were the least desirable. Meals with collectible toys, preferably a collectible the child didn’t have yet, was chosen over any other meal deal regardless of the food that accompanied it.

The second part of the study included 56 children and another toy. The toy was a collectible item, but it was not one that the children needed to complete their set. The researchers found again that children rated foods with collectibles toys – the ones they didn’t have in particular – more tasty and likeable.

This study definitely shows that the presence of a toy will have an impact on how food is going to taste and how they are going to like it, Cornwell says. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing – collectible toys can be paired up with more healthy meal deals that include fruits and vegetables and children will probably like it.

The research was published in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. There was no support from industries or public funds.

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Review Date: 
September 22, 2011