If you’re lucky enough to have an older sister, you’ll probably agree that they can be one of the best sources of information, encouragement, and support – largely because they’ve been through the same things you have – just first, and without a blueprint.
A perfect example is how I’ve been lucky enough to learn so much about ‘mommy-ing’ from my big sister, who is simply, quite a phenomenal role-model. With her having a baby before me, and me being 2 years younger than her, I got the opportunity to sit back, watch, and learn.
The thing with lessons is that sometimes they can come from watching someone else push through a battle. And man did my sister push! This whole blog post is actually about a lesson I learned and the tools I used, because of how I saw my sister battle with feeding her toddler.
Each meal seemed challenging, frustrating, and stressful – not because my sister was doing anything wrong, but because kids can be difficult and if you don’t have an arsenal of tools in your toolbox to try (My sister was a first-time mom at this stage) ‘simple’ things like eating can often escalate into frustrated meltdowns or trips to tantrum town. I took what I saw, did some research, and once Hannah was older I implemented specific steps to create fuss-free mealtimes.
Please, mamma, see the below as some tips or guidelines only! One of the worst things we can do to ourselves is to compare, especially in the parenting sphere. You know your child best so work from within that space; The Healthy Process is all about finding what works for YOU in a healthy and sustainable way.
The Healthy Process is all about finding what works for YOU in a healthy and sustainable way.
7 TIPS FOR FUSS-FREE MEALTIMES
- Encourage and praise your child for trying to feed themselves or for trying new food.
- Talk calmly and use positive language to reinforce your message.
Create a mealtime routine
- Children love routine even though it might not look like they do – they actually appreciate boundaries. To avoid having to one day chase your toddler around with a spoon, trying to get them to eat, rather, create a calm and easy-to-repeat routine as soon as you can.
- I always turn the tv off, create a seating space for Hannah at the table just like ours, and give her her own fork and spoon. On weekends (or every now and again) we will have dinner while watching a family movie. Mix it up and make it your own.
Allow your child to respond to their own hunger cues
- Resist force-feeding. Hannah has always lead the way and I have followed her lead for when she is hungry and when she is full. Knowing to eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are full is such an important lesson for a child to learn and they do so naturally if we just allow them space.
- Try and avoid offering alternatives for uneaten meals, this could create a bad habit.
Be a positive role model
- Eat as a family. Once a week, usually on the weekend we also have a meal while watching a movie together.
- Serve the same food as the rest of the family. Mamma don’t you go cooking separate meals, you are creating so much more work for yourself. Try and get your baby/toddler to eat from the table as soon as you can. Yes, of course, some foods might need to prepared differently or cut differently but don’t make a whole new separate meal.
- Talk positively about healthy foods.
Use non-food based rewards.
- One of my biggest tips is to avoid saying: ‘If you eat all your vegetables you can have dessert’. It makes the vegetables sound like they are a task they need to get through. It also gives more power to foods like ice-cream. Instead, why not try offering more playtime or another book before bedtime.
Get them involved
- Before Hannah could even walk or talk I was talking to her about food. When we went to the shops for groceries I told her about everything I was buying, the name of it, what we can make with it and I let her feel it too – food is not an abstract thing, its a big part of life and we want our kids to enjoy it!
- Show your child how one food item can be made into different things. An egg for example. Show them how it can be boiled, scrambled, or fried or that sweet potato can be cut into cubes and roasted or made into a mash.
- Hannah has her own little stool that she brings into the kitchen and always wants to get involved – from breaking the egg, buttering her toast to peeling a banana or adding the milk to her tea (and then stirring, she loves to stir).
Let them explore
- From day one I let Hannah get as messy as she needed to. I bought a full-sized bib (kind of like putting on an art apron) or if it was warm enough I undressed her. Watching her squeeze food between her fingers, feeling different textures, and feeding herself was and is still magical for me.
- Get all the sensory aspects of food involved not just taste.
- Let them try and feed themselves – it’s a messy affair but it’s also incredibly entertaining and rewarding to watch! Memories and milestones mamma, memories, and milestones!
Pick and choose some tips you might like to try and implement to create a fuss-free mealtime. Mealtimes don’t need to be a hurdle or a challenge when they can be a fun, healthy, and shared experience for the whole family!
Lots of love,
Hi! I'm Kelly
I'm passionate about sharing my journey towards my healthy process.
Follow along with my journey here on the blog and on social media.