A toddler's diet doesn't have to be a stressful topic and mealtime doesn't have to be an anxiety provoking experience for everyone involved. There is an enormous amount of information on toddler taste preferences and a myriad of opinions on what foods to introduce and when. These are important aspects of the toddler diet to explore, but we would like to begin even more basic than what you eat - how about a look at how you eat.
Below are some tips for creating a positive food experience for your StrongTot and the entire family:
Give (limited) choices at mealtime. Toddlers are eager to assert their independence and mealtime is a great place to begin teaching this skill. By giving your toddler a choice (e.g. toast or cereal for breakfast) you are teaching them that their opinion matters. Please do not confuse this suggestion as an opportunity to teach the art of negotiation; the two choices are selected by the adult and are the boundaries. Your toddler can feel empowered by having choices, but the parameters provide a framework for the adult to guide the overall meal.
Make preparation a group effort. Involve your toddler in the planning process and as a sous chef while the meal comes together. We realize this may not be easy during the week with busy work schedules and general chaos of a typical household, but make a point to involve your toddler in meal preparation as often as possible (even if just one or two meals on the weekend). In addition to helping your toddler have an investment in what they are about to eat, they will feel proud of their work/accomplishment.
Set a 30 minutes limit to mealtime. Toddlers have limited attention spans, a normal part of this developmental stage. Plan to limit mealtime to approximately 20-30 minutes at the most and make eating the sole focus of this time period. As the adult, sit with your child even if you are not partaking in the meal. This will allow you to model good table behavior, facilitate conversation, and maintain the focus.
These suggestions are meant just as that...suggestions. Toddlers thrive in a structured environment where routine provides predictability. Just be consistent; whatever mealtime routine works best for your family structure is the one you should take advantage of. That being said, take a moment to reflect on your family practices once in a while to see where improvements can be made. Raising a toddler is no small feat and as parents and caregivers you should be proud of all you do!
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com