I've posted before about Isla's eating habits and how I felt her diet was a bit limited. I’m not going to lie it was a slight worry to me, but I always try to keep in mind that none of this behaviour will go on forever (although it feels like forever sometimes!), I apply this to all sorts of things like when she was a nightmare at bedtime, taking ages to go down for the night (she’s now fine). However there have been times where I’ve not been able to be so rational and some dinner times used to end in tears (mine) and anger (mine). So when Joanne Mallon offered to guest post an excerpt from her new book, Toddlers: An Instruction Manual: A Guide to Surviving the Years 1 – 4 I thought it would be really useful to lots of mums out there! So over to Jo….
Tiny child, tiny appetite
If your child isn’t eating much, what do you do?
First of all, ensure that whatever they do eat is the best possible quality you can get. Yes I know some of that organic, free range stuff is pricey, but at least you are saving on all the stuff they won’t eat.
Keep portions fairly tiny to start with – you can always add more. Look at your child’s fist – that’s how big their stomach is. It’s not a lot of space is it? I know they seem to expand like a snake when it comes to capacity for cake, but for normal meals even what seems like an eeny weeny amount can make a difference.
Praise whatever your child does eat, especially if they’ve tried something new, but don’t turn it into a major fiesta. Calm, disengaged but objectively interested is the attitude we’re going for, rather than watching every morsel that passes their lips as if your life depended on it.
Remember who’s in charge
Sometimes parents moan “Well, all he’ll eat is fish fingers/smiley faces etc”, but never forget that this is your choice, not theirs. Your child didn’t go down to the supermarket and buy that food with their own money, did they? And if you don’t get it in, if it simply isn’t in the house to cook, then they may have no choice but to try something else.
Don’t engage with it or let mealtimes become a drama (yes I know I said that already, but given that it’s easier said than done I’m going to say it twice). In a busy household, being fussy about food may be the only way your child knows to successfully gain your full attention. And this is why stopping drawing attention to it is often key to moving beyond this behaviour. So resist the temptation to try and cajole your child to eat. If my son refuses a meal I just calmly take the plate away, and he usually then wants it back. It was all a game really.
On reading that snippet I can safely say that I definitely used to let mealtimes become a drama on occasion and I find myself being a lot more relaxed second time round with Noah. Thank you Jo for guesting here and if anyone would like to see what other little gems she has to offer then check out Amazon here for her new book!