We may have affectionately named our little ones ‘Pandemic Babies’ thanks to the unique time in which they were born, but all jokes aside, the upheaval of recent years will likely have had an affect on your little one’s behaviours – especially when it comes to mealtimes!
While, as parents, we’ve all had to learn to adapt with the times, so too must our mealtime routines to encourage good behaviours!
Here are 9 top tips to instil positive and healthy eating habits in our little ones:
- Observe and lead by example
Past lockdowns and any current isolation periods have meant that there has been more opportunity for parent/caregiver observation! This is a good thing when it comes to table manners as by witnessing parents eating at the table, your little one too can learn. Wherever possible eat alongside your child so they can observe how you hold and use your knife, fork and spoon.
- Depend on independence
Encourage independence with food, whether that’s exploration of new foods or the act of self-feeding itself. Focus your praise on their efforts at trying – even if it means things get a bit messy!
- Get tasking
Create good mealtime habits by encouraging your little one to help set the table, bring the plates to the sink, wipe the table clean and even help with loading the dishwasher! You’ll be surprised at how much your little one will enjoy doing these tasks.
- Create positive associations
Consider ‘cues’ for peaceful table environments, perhaps there is a calm playlist you can put on as you all sit for mealtime. Just like sleep, positive associations work wonders for mealtimes!
- Create boundaries
Set parameters for mealtimes. For younger children this can be that food has to be consumed whilst sitting down and as they get older it can be that food can only be eaten at the table.
- Don’t over-react
It is ok, in fact totally understandable, if your little one has become fussier with their eating; they have just not had the usual amount of time and opportunity to watch other children eating in social settings. Contain your reaction to the ‘fuss’ by trying to remain calm and not react too strongly. Instead look to reoffer that rejected food at other opportunities in other variations. It takes a long time for exposure to a food to lead to trying it… and then eating it… and then eating it regularly…and so forth… so don’t give up trying!
- Food is functional
Remember all food is fuel and serves a purpose. Explain the origin and benefits of each food category – your little one has a curious mind and will be stimulated by learning the different sources, functions and benefits of what they eat!
- Hygiene held high
You can introduce the concept of good hygiene habits with food and germs by encouraging hand washing before mealtimes, and by recruiting your little one to help wash fruits and vegetables before eating!
- Timing is key
By ensuring the meal is ready to eat before popping your little one in the highchair, you’ll prevent boredom, cheeky behaviour and a lot of unnecessary mealtime angst!
Visit @toddlersteensandbetween for more advice and support!