Do You Have A Sophistikid?



Most children know exactly what they want and exactly how they like it - and they have no qualms about letting you know when you don't meet their exacting standards.

This year, my daughter has commented on the sheets in our holiday apartment being too rough and the pillows being too flat (she had a point, but still). She casually mentioned that chocolate doesn't taste nice unless it's made by Cadbury's, says that the toilet paper at school is too 'thin and scratchy' and likes her drinks to be chilled, no ice.

I don't remember caring about any of these things when I was little - but our children have developed surprisingly sophisticated tastes, especially when it comes to food.

My mum loves to regale my six-year old with tales of my curious childhood eating habits. She explains that I wouldn't knowingly eat vegetables until I reached double figures, loved tinned sausages and beans and was deeply suspicious of rice and pasta. My daughter finds this hilarious - and unbelievable.

From what I can remember, my friends had similar tastes. Our lunchtime sandwiches were filled with paste, jam, sandwich spread or ham - and we usually had a packet of crisps and a Penguin to go with with it.

But when I was invited to lunch at my daughter's school, I had to stifle a laugh as I watched Year 2 children take packets of sushi, salami sandwiches, houmous wraps and crudités out of their Disney lunchboxes.

Of course, we eat differently now to the way we did in the 70s and 80s. We take more holidays and we've developed more exotic tastes, so we've given our kids a culinary head start.


I didn't like olives or anchovies until I reached my mid-20s, but my daughter announced that they were her favourite pizza toppings at the ripe old age of two.


A quick straw poll of other mums suggests that I'm not the only one living with a junior gourmet.

"My nine-month-old likes olives. Olives!" says Lindsay.

"When my seven-year-old son was asked to name his favourite food he said 'lobster'," says Marina.

"I offered my son's friend a piece of fruit after dinner," says Emily. "He turned his nose up at an apple or banana and asked if I had any dragon fruit."

A cursory glance at restaurant children's menus reflects this change in tastes - there's garlic mash, lemon sole goujons, slow-cooked stews and sweet potato chips where once there was only fishfingers, chips and beans.

And their tastes have become so refined that some kids have a strong preference for particular brands.

Even if I hide the packaging, my daughter can spot food that doesn't come from a premium range - she really can 'taste the difference.'

"Mine will only eat Pizza Express supermarket pizzas," says Sali.

Sharon adds: "My daughter won't eat anything from Aldi."

Given that some children are accustomed to eating only organic food or avoiding wheat or sugar altogether, throwing a birthday party can become more stressful than catering for a grown-up sit-down dinner.

"Last Halloween we had trick or treaters who started negotiating about what was on offer," says Sally. "One couldn't eat anything with additives, another didn't eat wheat, his friend wanted to know if it was 'shop bought' cake - it was. They went away with an apple each."

Every parent knows that fussy eaters can be hard to live with - not to mention expensive. I know one mum who buys whole organic chickens to make puree for her baby and another who boils and bakes her own ham, to Nigella's recipe, every weekend because her boys don't like 'processed' meat.

Unsurprisingly, the older generation are usually quick to point out that we indulge our kids too much.

So is 'sophisticated' just another word for 'spoilt'?

"I don't think so - it's just a sign of the times," says parenting expert and author Anita Naik.

"Kids tend to eat what their parents eat and we have more choice these days, so we all have more sophisticated palates.

"It's certainly not a bad thing, unless you allow your kids to be faddy and demand sushi over fish fingers all the time. Good balance and common sense is the key - so save the gourmet food for holidays and special occasions."

It also pays to remember that children are creatures of habit - so if you already order your toddler a coffee shop babycino, think about where that could lead.

A friend of mine had a glimpse into the future this summer when she was sitting next to a seven-year-old boy and his mum on a long-haul flight.

Just as they were preparing to land, the boy turned to his mum and said: "Mama, I won't feel human until I get off this plane and get a decent cup of coffee."

Consider yourselves warned.

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