Tips for Happy Eating

Mealtime should be one of joy and fun – not harping or frustration. To keep mealtimes happy, you should approach each with a sense of fun, not duty. Helping your baby reach his nutritional requirements should be fun – not work.

Prepare and Focus

Prepare all of the necessary items beforehand so that you can focus on your child exclusively during the meal. It’s distracting to be hopping up and down for a missing spoon or bib while trying to bond and enjoy your baby over a dish of applesauce.

Eat as a Family

Nothing will please your baby more than to eat with the family. Pull the high chair up to the table and have your child sit alongside his siblings or with just his parents as they eat each meal of the day. If you aren’t able to feed your baby while eating yourself, you can feed him before dinner and then allow him to sample mashed table foods or play with a cup of water during the actual meal – he’ll simply enjoy being around family. As he starts eating finger foods, eating with the family will become much easier, and it’s nice to have the routine already established.

Never Force

You should never force your children to eat anything. Provide only healthy options for snacks and meals and allow them to eat what they want, when they want. A snack should be small with larger servings of different foods at mealtimes, but grazing, or eating small meals frequently, is perfectly normal for children and many adults. Making food a battleground simply removes any pleasure from the meal all together. If your child is being obstinate about eating any food at all at mealtimes, allow him to go hungry until the next normal meal or snack and serve him a normal portion then. Unless there is a medial issue or he’s filling up on unhealthy snacks, he’ll eat when he’s hungry and forcing it won’t truly help matters.

Make Food Fun

To make mealtimes fun, you should focus on making food fun as well. Have your older toddler help in the kitchen. Older children can make entire dishes on their own and toddlers can help with stirring or adding ingredients. Letting your child help prepare the food makes it much more fun and interesting to eat. Arranging the food colorfully on the plate is also greatly entertaining for children – even adults love eating pancakes designed like smiling faces.

Pay Attention to Signals

Your nonverbal child will send you signals that he is filling up or is no longer interested in his meal. When he starts playing with his food or throwing it on the ground, he’s not hungry enough to eat it and you can remove a source of frustration by taking his plate and offering him a toy to play with instead. This allows him to stay at the table with the rest of the family, but you won’t have to scramble to clean up a huge mess at every meal.

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