Parents often struggle to help their children learn table manners. However, a recent study by British researchers may put some parents at ease.

According to the researchers, if parents want their children to be less picky eaters, they should let the youngsters play with different kinds of food. The researchers claim that when children play with food, they get introduced to new flavors of which they were previously afraid. The researchers also found that children who were exposed to new flavors had a more varied diet.

In a small study, researchers asked children to search for toys hidden inside jelly and mashed potatoes. The team found that the children who were ready to get their hands dirty by searching for the toys were less likely to be afraid of tasting new flavors -- a condition called food neophobia.

"Although this is just an association, the implication is that getting children to play with messy substances may help their food acceptance," lead researcher Helen Coulthard said in a statement.

According to pediatricians, it is normal for children to prefer the same foods over a period of time, rather than experiment with new foods. However, most kids begin to overcome this habit during the elementary school years. Refusing to eat some foods is completely normal as long as the child has a well-maintained weight and is healthy, researchers say.

Past research claimed that a child's neophobia applies only to consumption of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, Coulthard's team decided to conduct a separate study to see if there is any connection between touching food and tasting unknown dishes. The researchers found that children consumed more fruits and vegetables when their parents did the same.

The findings have been published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics.