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10 April 2017

Videotaped Puppet Shows Can Make Preschoolers Eat More Veggies

Keywords: DVD, characters, education, fruit, health, kids, preschoolers, vegetables, North America, eating behavior, food, food intake,

Eating vegetables can benefit kids in many ways. However, many preschoolers do not like eating veggies that much. According to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity videotaped theater shows with puppets, engaging storylines, and songs can offer a solution for preschoolers' aversion to vegetables.

Take aways

  • Watching videotaped puppet shows in which vegetables take center stage can make preschoolers eat more vegetables. 
  • Especially the use of a storyline, repetitious songs, and characters with their own personality seem important to increase vegetable consumption.
  • Caregivers could use engaging puppet shows to improve healthy consumption among preschoolers.

Study information

  • The question?

    Can videotaped puppet shows increase vegetable consumption in preschoolers?

  • Who?

    253 preschoolers (mean age: 4 years; 49% boys; 66% Hispanics and 34% African-Americans)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    The researchers divided the preschoolers into two groups. The first group of kids watched the videotaped puppet shows and the other group did not watch the shows.The puppet shows included three characters. The first character was Reggie Veggie, who is a hero and mentor for two other characters, Judy Fruity and Bag Boy. Judy Fruity is intelligent and is portrayed as a sidekick supporting Reggie Veggie in getting children to eat vegetables and to make Bag Boy eat healthy. Bag Boy is the underdog, who only wants chips and candy. However, eventually, he is persuaded by Reggie Veggie, with encouragement and support of Judy Fruity, by stating the importance of eating vegetables and the very special properties and nutritional value of vegetables. When Bag Boy tries the vegetables, he is miraculously transformed into a superhero.

    The puppet show included four 20-minute episodes that were recorded on DVD. Each show had a unique story line and an engaging, repetitious song. The characters in each show persuaded children to increase vegetable consumption through strategies of encouragement, rationale, reinforcement, and role modeling. Each show was shown prior to lunch for five consecutive days in school and a minimum of once in the home. Pictures of plates during school lunches were used to assess vegetables consumption before and after the study.

Facts and findings

  • Preschoolers who watched the puppet shows ate more vegetables than preschoolers who did not watch the shows.
  • Preschoolers who had watched the show ate about 50% more vegetables than they did before watching the show. 
  • Fun fact: Parents said that their kids liked the song and the names of the characters. Parents believed the reason their kids liked the videos was because it was cartoon-like, the characters interacted with the children, and encouraged them to participate because of the upbeat singing and dancing and the bright colors.
  • Critical note: This study was conducted among low-income preschoolers who attended a preschool educational program (Head Start). It is possible that the results do not generalize to preschoolers and families with other backgrounds.