As any mum knows, sitting down to a meal with a young child is hard to do. Perhaps it is a special holiday or you have guests. The last thing you want is for your toddler to refuse to eat or throw a tantrum about what you’ve made. What can you do to bring these eating and behaviour concerns under control?
Realise It’s Normal
The most important thing for parents to realise is that toddlers do not have the attention span that’s long enough to handle sitting for more than a few minutes at a time. Don’t assume that your child is going to sit still for a long meal. Older toddlers can understand what you want them to do, but in most cases, they still will only be able to focus for a few minutes.
Encourage Your Child to Be Interested in Food
Giving your child options about what he or she can eat for dinner helps keep the child interested. You want the child to be gastronomically independent, at least somewhat. That way, he or she is more likely to talk about food and want to sit with you at the table.
Make It Easy
Let’s face it. Using a fork, drinking from a cup, wiping up his face is just too difficult for the little guy to handle on his own. The solution is to make foods that the child can easily eat with fingers. Though it may not be proper table manners, it’s okay to let your child dive into the meal hands first if it gets him or her to eat. This is an important developmental component of the child’s ability to feed.
Set the Stage
If your child has had a long day and is worn out from playing or travelling from one location to the next, which happens so frequently on holidays, don’t expect the child to sit still and enjoy a four-course meal. In other words, if the child is going to need to spend time sitting at the table, be sure he or she is in a good mood, well rested and happy. Otherwise, you are setting the stage for trouble. Of course, this is not easy to do, not even in the most comfortable of settings, such as at home.
So, what do you do when the guests are sitting down and your toddler is having none of it? You let him go. Give the child an opportunity to choose the foods he wishes to eat. Encourage the child to sit and talk with his friends. Let the child eat in any way that’s possible. Finally, prep your guests. Be sure everyone understands what to expect and is okay with it. As your child gets older, he or she will be more willing to sit down and eat in the proper fashion. Until then, take the pressure off you and your child.