Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feeding Toddlers Who are Independent

I have stopped spoon feeding Charlotte and Daniel about a month ago simply because they told me so by shaking their heads fervently and refusing to take anything from the spoon. That was a worry for me because I no longer knew how much food my children were consuming and then I remembered someone wise once told me, Children will eat as much as they want and won't starve themselves.

This transition has been tricky for us because I have to come up with meals that are nutritious, delicious to their palettes and food that they can pick up with their hands as they are still mastering the art of using the spoon. We all know how fickle minded toddlers are - one day, they love bananas and the next day, they hate bananas. Therefore, I always have at least 3 meal options in the fridge because you never know...

Some of the foods they love (which are now staples in our home) include:
  • wedges of watermelon (they consume 3kg per week),
  • whole apple (no slicing / peeling.  They eat everything including the core & seeds and yes, they leave the stalk alone!),
  • raisins (I buy a big pack which lasts us about 2 weeks),
  • sausages (any kind and they also eat it cold if we are out and no microwave is available)
  • mash potato (oh my!)
  • greek yoghurt (thank goodness! This is my staple when they aren't keen on their main meal)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Vegemite sandwiches (they are aussie kids, afterall!)
I do count myself lucky that my children enjoy their food (regardless of how fickle they may be. Think: bananas) and that they enjoy meal & snack times.

Here's how I create an enjoyable meal time for them and me (98% of the time):
  • Stick to a routine that is consistent both at kindy and at home.
    E.g. morning tea at 9:00am, lunch at 11:00am, afternoon tea at 2:00pm and dinner at 4:00pm.
  • Limit the quantity of snacks given and make sure they are healthy.
    Pretty straight forward. The more snacks they eat, the less hungry they will be at meal times.
  • Offering them a variety of foods at dinner.Makes the dinner plate visually more interesting for them - they get to taste, touch and play with the different tastes & textures.
  • Room temperature to be comfortable.If it isn't comfortable for me to eat, it won't be for the kids either. Place high chairs under a ceiling fan to keep them cool and if the weather is lovely outdoors, dine outside (if this is an option for you).
  • No rushing so long as they are enjoying themselves.Meal times are taken at a very leisure pace. Some meals might take 20 minutes and some might take 50 minutes. Either way, so long as they are still engaged with their food and seem to be having a good time, I let them be. One of my strategies in keeping my children engaged in their high chairs
  • Fun.To encourage them to sit in their high chairs "longer" (think: teaching them about patience and social ethiquette when dinning in public), I sing them a series of nursery rhymes (they are very good at mimicking 'twinkle twinkle little stars' and read them a few books.
  • Food throwing = 3 warnings = if unheeded, food gets removed immediately = no more fun.This is effective and they learn quickly that undesirable actions have consequences.
  • Get bowls and plates that stick to their high chair or dinning tableTrust me. The other annoying bit besides toddler's throwing food is, lifting their plates / bowls and tossing it along with its contents!
  • Bibs that come with a troughToddlers are messy eaters.  The trough simply catches the food that have slipped from their grasps, out of their mouths, etc...and the trough is where they go when they want seconds! LOL
  • Splatter mat on the floorAgain, toddlers are messy eaters. Accept it. Food will slip through the cracks regardless. Therefore have a splatter mat underneath their high chair - make it a BIG splatter mat. Even better if it is of PVC material because after you have scooped up the fallen bits, you can either clean it with a damp cloth, mop it or like us, hose it down in the backyard.
What about you? What are your strategies when it comes to meal times with your toddler(s)?

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