Mealtimes are more than just food and nutrition - they're an amazing opportunity for your little one to learn a whole host of social and physical skills!
Our friends at Babbu offer expert advice, lessons and tips to support your child's development, all in one handy app. Today they're here to share their top seven tips to encourage mealtime independence...
1. Start Early
Starting early is the key to fostering independence in your little one. When it comes to food, the earlier you encourage them to take charge of their own eating, the smoother their journey toward self-sufficiency will be. Even babies can begin learning essential self-feeding skills, like grasping food with their tiny hands or attempting to use a spoon.
2. Be Patient
Remember, teaching your little one to feed themselves is a gradual process. It's essential to exercise patience as they navigate this new territory. Offer support and encouragement as they take their first steps towards culinary independence.
3. Get Them Involved
Children adore imitating the adults in their lives, whether it's mimicking our words or lending a hand with household chores. Try to involve your little one in the kitchen, letting them participate in the cooking process. This not only sparks their curiosity but also strengthens the bond you share. For these tasks to be more accessible to your little one, you could provide them with child-size kitchen equipment such as a knife, chopping board and bowl or plate.
4. Give Them a Choice
Wherever possible, give your little one the freedom to choose their own meals. At snack, offer them either the Apple & Cinnamon Oat Bites or the Fish Bites. You could ask them whether they would like something savoury or sweet, in this case. When your little one is due a larger meal (Small or Medium pot), give them a choice between the Chicken Korma, or the Pasta Bolognese.
Allowing them to make decisions about what they eat from a set of options not only empowers them but also assists in developing their preferences and learning to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues.
5. It Might Get Messy!
Embracing the mess that accompanies self-feeding is an integral part of nurturing your little one’s independence, particularly during mealtimes.
- Begin by introducing child-sized utensils that are easy to hold and manoeuvre.
- Encourage your little one to practise self-feeding by offering finger foods or small, soft bites that they can easily pick up.
To manage the aftermath of these mealtime adventures, place a plastic mat or tablecloth under their highchair - this makes the cleanup process much more manageable and efficient!
Initially, your little one might encounter some challenges when attempting to feed themselves. However, with practice, they will gradually enhance their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
6. Help them look after their environment.
A great way to weave this responsibility into your little one’s daily routine can be also achieved during table setting and clean-up routines.
For example, you could provide them with a small basket with napkins (simple folded paper towels would be fine too), child-sized plates, and utensils. Show your little one how to set the table.
Post-mealtime, engage them in the rewarding task of wiping the table, clearing the dishes, placing them in the sink, and even washing up. This experience instils values of responsibility, fosters coordination, whilst also encouraging them to develop a good level of self-care and independence.
7. Lead By Example.
As mentioned earlier, children are great observers and therefore copy adults. By showing them how to use a knife and fork, using a cup and using a jug to pour water from, your little one is likely to want to get involved and try things out for themselves. Even though they might not use the utensils and still use their hands, exploration is a great way to learn.
And there you have it! We hope these seven tips help your toddler gain independence at mealtimes. Thank you to the Babbu team for this helpful guide!
If you're looking for more mealtime support, we recently hosted free fussy eating webinar with the Babbu team, where we share actionable steps you can take to create a more positive mealtime experience.
Love, Team Pots for Tots x