Children's relationship with food
For toddlers, a healthy diet doesn't mean the same thing as it does for adults. As kids tend to be naturally curious and want to play to discover, the experience of « eating » is also influenced by this mode of learning. It's important for parents to observe their child's relationship with food and to find appropriate ways to teach them good habits while having fun.
Serve the right foods
To help babies learn how to eat without help, give them soft foods like mashed bananas or cereals that they can take with their fingers and explore. Children love to discover new textures and flavors so vary the foods you offer them to sustain their interest.
The further your child experiences small wins, the more they will feel confident and be receptive to new things at meal time. Ignore little accidents and the mess it may create and focus instead on their successes to encourage them to develop their autonomy.
To help your child learn how to eat with utensils, serve a meal that contains foods they can take with his fingers, and foods they can take with a spoon, so they feel comfortable experimenting and they can still turn to their little fingers if needed.
Eating too fast can prevent us from recognizing our natural satiety signals, which in turn will make us overeat. Encourage your child to eat slowly, to chew and enjoy every bite.
The older children get, the more they express the need to make their own choices. Make your child feel more responsible by offering them choices, while still only providing good nutritious food, so they can have a healthy diet and learn to take responsibility at the same time.
Attitude and atmosphere
Children are like sponges and if the atmosphere around the table is negative, they may suddenly become picky eaters. Create a nice family atmosphere around the table, turn off the TV and don't focus on what your child is eating (or how much) but rather keep a pleasant conversation going. If a toddler is throwing their food, don't get angry, remain calm and remember that this is a normal part of their development. Ignore the behavior, but do set clear limits so your child knows there will be consequences if these limits are not respected.
Learning through play
If your child doesn’t like a particular food, try to make it appear more interesting by giving it a more descriptive or fun name. Create beautiful and colorful dishes, encourage them to count the numbers of small pieces or create shapes in their plates so that the food becomes more interesting and appealing.
The « No » phase
If your child is right in the middle of their « no » phase, avoid problems at mealtimes by offering them different foods in small quantities, so they can choose what they want from the selection instead of simply refusing whatever you serve them.
- Let younger kids play with their food to develop their interest.
- Cut toasts and sandwiches into fun shapes.
- If you introduce a new food, start by making your child taste it from your own plate before giving it to them on their plates. Kids love to imitate their parents!
- Let older kids pour their own milk into their glasses, even if there are sometimes little spills.
- Encourage your kids to help you prepare the meals by giving them age-appropriate tasks.
- Serve foods they don't like as much in fun and colorful plates.
- Take your kids to visit farms, so they can see where their food comes from. For more fun, have your own garden at home!