10 Mealtime Practices for a Happy Eating Environment
By parent report, an average of one in every four children is said to have a “feeding difficulty.” That means that 25% of parents are dreading feeding times. Here are some good rules to work by to ensure that both you and your child are enjoying eating and meals:
- Meals AND snacks, should be given at regularly scheduled times (typically eating every 2-3 hours)
- Meals and snacks happen at the same place (e.g. in a high chair) while eating. Avoid “grazing,” or eating all over the house.
- Solids should be offered first, fluids last
- Meals should last no longer than 30 minutes
- Encourage your child to feed herself as much as possible (finger feed or using a spoon)
- Learning to eat without approval or disapproval is important. It should be a neutral environment, free of bribes or comments on “how much.”
- Refrain from using games or distractions during meals
- Food should be removed after 10-15 minutes if the child seems to play with food without eating
- Clean-up AFTER the meal, wipe the mouth and hands only when the meal is done
- Relax, and remember that its ok for a child to miss a meal once in a while*
Remember that you can get your child to come to the table, but you can’t make your child eat. Its our job as parents to be a good eating model. That means that parents should be eating meals WITH kids. The importance of participating in family mealtimes is crucial.
These are only guidelines for mealtime practices, and if you have a specific question about your child’s feeding or nutrition, consult with your pediatrician.
*adapted from Joan Arvedson and multiple sources
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