Tips On Feeding Your Toddler
By Pamela Redwine
If you are a parent, or a grandparent, then you have probably fed a toddler, and as many of you can attest, it is not an easy activity. Remember your feelings the first time you set your child in her high chair and offered her her favorite food? SPLASH! The bowl crashes to the floor while your child gives you an emphatic “NO!” followed by unexplainable, uncontrollable crying and screaming.
This has not only happened once, has it? Unfortunately, you are in the beginning stages of a battle of wills that will rage on for many years to come. You have an understanding of what is right and in the best interest of your child, while your toddler is challenging you on every decision you make, as if to say this is your worst idea, yet. At times like these, it is a good idea to take a deep breath, focus, and remember the role of the parent and the role of the child. Little concessions, here and there, can lead to more difficult situations later. Holding your ground, which is definitely the more difficult decision at the time, will have a more beneficial impact in the long run.
Food, and more importantly mealtime, and even more importantly FAMILY mealtime, is a great way to provide leadership and mentorship in your toddler’s sphere of learning. At this point in a child’s life, every activity, including mealtime, is an experience that develops his or her sense of self and discipline. The choices we make for our children and how we handle their reactions to our decisions are among the most difficult, yet influential, aspects of parenting a toddler.
When things begin to get stressful during mealtimes, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. You may want to give in and do whatever it takes to restore peace; however, continuing to cross such important lines can lead to more difficult struggles in the future. A better idea is to operate from above as an educated observer, so the “sometimes bizarre” behavior of your toddler makes sense.
Food selection can be difficult, and it is important to remember not to cater or make “special foods” for your toddler. Here are few suggestions Ellyn Satter offers in Child of Mine on how to select foods and feed your toddler so that you can help them eat well.
· Offer the entire family the same foods, but remember it is acceptable to alter the foods, so they are easy to manage. Soft, moist, easy to chew foods work best.
· Make sure the food is adequate in fat content. Low-fat foods are neither nutritionally appropriate nor appealing to the toddler. (This does not mean it is a good idea to deep-fry everything. Instead, consider healthful fats.)
· Pair foods together. Try offering new or disliked foods with foods the child generally likes.
· Always offer bread during meals. Allow your child to eat that if all else fails.
· Don’t try to force your child to eat. The child may act defiant and strong-willed but will feel ashamed if he or she senses your disapproval.
A few other strategies from Child of Mine to help encourage and establish your child’s eating habits include:
· You are in charge of the family menu. Don’t allow your child to make the choice for you. Again remember you are in charge of the who, what, and when. They are in charge of how much.
· Don’t allow grazing or begging for food or beverages (except water) during non-meal or snack times.
· Always allow your child in family meals. Don’t feed them separately. Make sure they see you eating the same foods you are offering them.
· Don’t force food on your child. Children enjoy the game of turning the food down and watching you get desperate and exasperated.
· Make family mealtimes, happy and supportive times. Try not to argue or admonish at the table. (It is also a good idea to turn the television off and prevent other distractions)
Unfortunately, this article just scratches the surface of tips on feeding your child. If you would like more information, I encourage you to check out Ellyn Satter’s books or other authors that discuss how to appropriately and effectively feed your child and how to deal with it when they don’t eat. You can also contact your local MSU Extension Service office for other helpful tips and advice.