Let's face it. Eating with a toddler can be stressful, especially at dinner time. Even though spilling and throwing food, picky eating, and crankiness are all normal, they can be hard to face each evening. But, your toddler benefits so much from eating with you, it is worth it to find ways to create happy and stress-free mealtimes.
Where to start?
Move your focus from what your child is eating to simply enjoying each other's company. It is amazing how much stress is lifted when you let go of being concerned about how much or what your child will eat.
Plan for early dinners. Toddlers can be ticking time bombs after 5 p.m. If dinner is running late, offer a light pre-dinner snack to prevent your toddler from becoming overhungry.
Involve your toddler in the dinner conversation; keep it fun.
Keep distractions at a minimum. Turn off the TV and cell phone. Don't allow toys at the table.
Expect a mess and have wipes handy to catch large spills. Pick up food that has dropped on the floor after the meal is over. Practice the Division of Responsibility with feeding:
- Introduce new foods along with familiar, loved foods. This will help your child feel comfortable at meal times.
- Do not coax or bribe your child to try new foods or to eat certain amounts. Let your child decide what and how much to eat from the foods that are offered. Let your baby feed themselves as much as possible, with fingers or spoon.
- Feel good about achieving your main job which is preparing the meal and serving it at a scheduled time. Once the meal is served, focus on your own eating, not your toddlers.
Ellyn Satter Institute
Healthy Families BC