The Copy Kids DVD is currently being independently tested at a biomedical research center.
Modeling, or learning through observing and imitating another person’s actions, is an effective learning tool for young children, and is the main learning principle harnessed in the Copy-Kids DVDs. Previous research suggests that young children who observe models, especially peer models, eating a particular food will increase acceptance and consumption of that food. To find out more about how children’s eating behavior can be influenced by peer models, keep reading!
Behavior Change Theory
- Schunk, D.H. Peer models and children’s behavioral change. Review of Educational Research. 1987: 57(2); 149-174.
This article reviewed 29 studies and their use of peer modelling to influence behavior change in children. Current theories of modelling are based on foundational work by Albert Bandura. Peer models may be more effective in certain contexts based on their perceived similarities with the observer, including similarities in age and sex (i.e. when modelling age- and sex-appropriate tasks). Perceived competency is another important attribute to consider for effective modelling, while the number of models and other model characteristics may be less important.
“Authentic” or In-person Peer Modeling
- Hendy, H.M. Effectiveness of trained peer models to encourage good acceptance in preschool children. Appetite. 2002: 29; 217-225.
During lunchtime, 38 preschoolers (3 to 6-year-olds) were presented with novel fruits. Sixteen children were trained as peer models and the remaining 22 children (“observers”) observed a peer model eating and enjoying a novel fruit. Peer models received verbal reinforcement and a small toy for eating the assigned fruit. Observers were more accepting of the modeled fruit when the peer model was a girl. Increased food acceptance for observers was no longer present one month later. Children who served as peer models preferred the modeled fruit and still displayed increased acceptance for this fruit a month later.
- Birch, L.L. Effects of peer models’ food choices and eating behaviors on preschoolers’ food preferences. Child Development. 1980: 51(2); 489-496.
An early study assessed 39 preschoolers’ (2 to 4 year olds) vegetable preferences. After observing a peer model eating a previously non-preferred veggie during school lunches, preschoolers selected and consumed more of the modeled vegetable, even when also offered an alternative, highly preferred food. Preschoolers not exposed to a peer model showed no change in food preferences. Modeling effects were especially salient for younger children, regardless of the model’s age or sex.
- Addessi, E., Galloway, A.T., Visalberghi, E., Birch L.L. Specific social influences on the acceptance of novel foods in 2-5-year-old children. Appetite. 2005: 45; 264-271.
In a study about novel food acceptance, 27 young children (2 to 5 year olds) were presented with a novel food while an adult model: 1) was present but the adult did not eat any of the food, 2) modeled eating and enjoying a similar food (different color), or 3) modeled eating and enjoying the same food (same color). Children ate more of the new food when the adult model ate the same exact food, while children who saw an adult eat a similar but differently colored food or no food at all, were not accepting of the novel food. In addition, all children ate more of the novel food after multiple exposures, showing that repeated exposures are often necessary before children will accept a new food.
Video Peer Modeling
- Lowe, C.F., Horne, P.J., Tapper, K., Bowderry, M., Egerton, C. Effects of a peer modelling and rewards-based intervention to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004: 58; 510-522.
Food consumption was measured for 402 children (4 to 11 year olds) in England and Wales who watched six 6-minute episodes of “Food Dudes,” a video series in which slightly older, animated peers model eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables in their quest to defeat evil “Junk Punks” and save the world. Children were offered a variety of fruits and vegetables and offered small reward items for eating these fruits and vegetables during lunch and snack-time at school. Children significantly increased their consumption and liking of fruits and vegetables following the “Food Dudes” intervention. Children who ate the least fruits and vegetables prior to the videos showed a 15-to-27-fold increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. Parents also reported significant increases in their child’s fruit and vegetable consumption at home.
- Horne, P.J., Tapper, K., Lowe, C.F., Hardman, C.A., Jackson, M.C., Wooler, J. Increasing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption: A peer-modelling and rewards-based intervention. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004: 58; 1649-1660.
749 children (5 to 11 year olds) at two London schools were assigned to the “Food Dudes” intervention (see Lowe et al. article) or a control condition. Children at the control school were offered fruits and vegetables, but did not view “Food Dudes” episodes or receive rewards for fruit and vegetable consumption. Children who participated in the “Food Dudes” intervention consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables, as compared to baseline measures and the control school. Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was maintained at 4-month follow-up and parents also reported increased consumption at home.To see more about “Food Dudes” visit: http://www.fooddudes.co.uk/ (There is also a preschool version.)
- Romero, N.D., Epstein, L.H., Salvy, S-J. Peer modeling influences girls’ snack intake. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009: 109; 133-136.
Preadolescent girls (8 to 12 year olds) who were either non-overweight or overweight (> 85th BMI percentile) watched a video of a peer eating cookies. Overall, overweight girls consumed more cookies than non-overweight girls. Girls who viewed a video peer eating a large portion of cookies were more likely to eat a larger portion of cookies, while girls who watched a video peer eating a small portion of cookies were more likely to eat a smaller portion of cookies.
- Anzman-Frasca, S., Savage, J.S., Marini, M.E., Fisher, J.O., Birch, L.L. Repeated exposure and associative conditioning promote preschool children’s liking of vegetables. Appetite. 2012: 58; 543-553.
This study consisted of two separate experiments in which 111 preschoolers (3 to 6 year olds) were repeatedly asked to taste a vegetable (with or without a likeable dip) over a 4-week period. Children’s liking of a vegetable that they did not initially enjoy significantly increased after repeatedly tasting the vegetable 6+ times. These results support the repeated exposure hypothesis by showing that children can significantly increase enjoyment of a food item after simple repeated (6+) exposures.
- Schindler J.M., Corbett D., Forestell C.A. Assessing the effect of food exposure on children’s identification and acceptance of fruit and vegetables. Eating Behavior. 2013, 14(1); 53–56. (Abstract only)
This study exposed 29 Kindergarteners at two schools to interactive physical activity and healthy eating activities. Children at one school also received exposure to fruits and vegetables. After the study, all children were able to identify a range of fruits and vegetables, but only children who were exposed to the food items were more willing to eat fruits. Overall, no children showed changes in willingness to eat vegetables.
- Cason K.L. Evaluation of a Preschool Nutrition Education Program Based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2001: 33(3); 161-4. (Abstract only)
6102 preschool-age children were presented with a series of 12 lessons by nutrition educators. Lessons included education on identifying fruits and vegetables, making healthy snack choices, willingness to try foods, and overall eating behavior. After program completion, preschoolers were significantly better at identifying and recognizing fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks. Children were also more willing to taste foods and consumed fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy at a greater frequency.