#2 Ching Yue Chow: Sensory sciences in children

How do young children perceive food texture and what are their preferences?

Ching is an industrial PhD student between the University of Copenhagen and Arla Foods.

Department and Section: Department of Food Science, Institute of Design and Consumer Behavior

University supervisor (first): Wender Bredie

University supervisor (second): Annemarie Olsen

Company supervisor: Anne C. Bech

Running title of dissertation

Development of pre-school children’s texture perception and acceptance of healthy foods

Dissertation topic

  • Sensory sciences in children between 3 and 6 years old: How do kids perceive and like different food textures and why? How do their preferences develop as they grow older and what causes differences?


Development and validation of questionnaire:

  1. Question children regarding their preferences in a forced-choice setting. e.g. Would you prefer strawberry yogurt with pieces or strawberry yogurt without pieces?
  2. Present children with different types of food in a real-life setting, ask them the same question and determine whether they actually choose what they had previously said they would choose.
  3. Determine the suitability of the questionnaire – Is it necessary to present children with actual food or can validate data set be generated by only asking them through the questionnaire?

Ching’s findings so far:

  • children tend to prefer smooth over lumpy textures (lumpy = e.g. food with ‘things in it’ like yogurt with fruit pieces
  • although the children were quite reliable in their answers, cognitive abilities and therefore reliability increased with age – and thus the suitability of the questionnaire

More thoughts on sensory sciences in children:

Food neophobia describes the fear of trying new foods. All humans have it but young children in particular. When children transit from being parent-feed to being independent, they would go through a phase of being reluctant to try new foods and would more often than not reject them. This is thought to have developed as an innate defensive mechanism and should protect them from eating something ‘wrong’ or even dangerous. Although they are able to eat and chew everything, their is this psychological barrier.

There are differences between children: more anxious children are more likely to be picky eaters. Parents also play a role! Parental feeding practices, such as pressuring or encouraging to eat new foods, are linked with how neophobia develop among kids. Despite of differences, all kids undergo this period! Maybe this is nice for parents to know, it’s not just your kid  and it’s a protective behavior of a child!

Learnings & advice

  • it is of great help to be connected with other PhD students – even if not in terms of shared research – it can give great emotional support
  • enjoy your life apart from your PhD – it should be given the same attention! so take breaks, respect your limitations and keep track of your physical and mental well-being 🙂


If you would like to connect with Ching check out LinkedIn or ResearchGate.

Ching’s funding: The research is supported by Arla Foods amba as an industrial PhD program of the Innovation Fund Denmark (grant number: 0153-00158B).

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