Updated: May 11
Mealtime can turn into a major battle field for lots of young families, with dinner time being the primetime for toddlers and young children to act up.
So many clients will email me, declaring their child is a picky eater.
As I start to dig a little deeper into what is going on, thats actually not always the case, even though, that is the perception.
What classifies a picky eater?
I would say:
It's a young child who just won't eat anything except a few 'safe foods' or prefers to just swallow soft foods, like yoghurt....... NO lumps!
Sometimes these issues can be mechanical and will need further investigation from a complex feeding team.
Sometimes, these issues are actually more around behaviours - in the latter cases, that's where I can help.
Here are some common struggles that I hear parents talk about.
STAYING AT THE TABLE
This can make all your efforts of spending time making a nice family dinner, go out the window, along with your sanity.
Dinner becomes a game of:
1. Getting the child to the table.
2. Staying there for more than 10 seconds
3. Getting them to 'try' something ' just one bite"
4. Bring out the iPad as a way to distract them
So then the chances of you enjoying your own dinner, well, cold at best.
Most toddlers, would much prefer to be sat on your lap or wondering around, whilst dropping bits of food all over the floor.
Heres a few eating tips, that you can roll out to see if it will make meal time more fun for you.
Stick with your little one being strapped into a high chair as long as you can, they often don't like the straps, but they are there for a reason so use them!
Once they are out of a chair with straps, getting them to stay at the table is much more challenging.
Stick with using the high chair, until you have a good foundation around eating place first.
Even if its not for long, just make sitting a the table for eating a normal part of your day, and please LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
If you are walking about dropping bits of food all over the floor, you are teaching them, that its normal, and believe me, they will drop many more bits than you.
This hen creates more work for you, clean the floors, any glass that is child hand height, and removing bits of toast out of the lego box.
NOT EATING MUCH
Be wary of the amount of food you are offering per sitting and remember this phrase:
'Less is More'
Don't pile the plate / bowl so high.
If you do this, its not realistic to expect your child to finish it.
This then makes you think, they have not eaten much and makes the whole experience much more negative.
Offer, less, let them ask for more, everyone will feel better about this and the pressure is off!
Remember also, that children are human beings, not computers. Children are always on the uptake and down take in terms of what they like and don't like, as well as the amounts. Some days they will be more hungry than others. JUST.LIKE.YOU
IPADS AT THE TABLE
This of course has only become an issue recently, as iPads were not available.
They seem handy in the moment, especially if you are feeling desperate, to get your child to eat, or if you are going to a restaurant and you want them to 'behave', or maybe you just want to enjoy your meal that you are paying for.
This can be a slippery slope.
We all like to have those days where we are sat on the couch having a TV dinner, right? I like that too sometimes. But it's more of an exception to the rule, it's not 'the rule, its more like a treat.
Watching the TV as a family and eating dinner, is also different to a child who in engaging in the iPad just on their own, whilst sat at the table with everyone.
The iPad starts out in most cases, as a way to get the child to sit at the table and eat, however it's also a crutch.
Funnily enough, alot of the time, this is only an issue at home, where the bar has even set. During the day, children can be in care or at school and these props are not available, and they eat just fine.
Taking it away is going to cause some issues, as you are now changing the rules that you created, so things will get worse before they get better, but they will get better once eating and talking as family become the new normal.
Food for Constipation in toddlers.
On the back of all the poop and potty talk this week, I went knocking on my lovely clients door (Jenn Messina) AKA The North Shore Dietitian, to grab and share a recipe that toddlers will love, but one that also keep the poops coming. As you know, some foods are binding and will cause your little one to get backed up. Others will cause them to dash to the bathroom with not enough time to get their pants down. Read more....