Tips to develop good eating habits in children

The trickiest and most challenging part of rearing a child is to get them to eat. I know many moms whose biggest concern all day is to feed their child and they end up spending several hours a day doing just that.

My son thankfully didn’t trouble us as much while eating. I feel the reason is that we laid a few ground rules for him and were strict about following them at meal time. Here are a few tips that may also help other parents in introducing food to the baby –

  1. High chair or a fixed comfortable seat –We bought my son a high chair and as soon as we placed him there, he knew that he has to eat now! Kids like a routine and repetitive pattern. This helped him identify meal time and relate to it at a much younger age. Infact he used his high chair till he was 4 years!
  2. Eating is a serious business –This tip I picked up from my father in law. At meal time, there should be no distractions at all. I used to sometimes talk to my son while he ate but mostly let him concentrate on the task at hand. I know sometimes we are forced to offer the Ipad or switch on the TV to get them to eat but lesser the screen time, the better it is.
  3. Encourage self-feeding –Soon after children get used to the routine of having meals they want to do so on their own. I used to encourage my son to eat with his hand instead of me putting food in his mouth. It was easy to pick up finger food, slices of fruits or eat rolled up parathas and bread. For rice or dals, to be fed with a spoon, I remember my son was very curious and used to try to reach out for the spoon in my hand. When I felt he was ready I handed it over to him. He used to spill some food, create a mess but all was worth it because then he would be pleased to eat the few scanty pieces of rice in his spoon that were still left after traveling from the plate, mid-air to reach his mouth. In the end, I would then feed him the leftover food to satisfy myself that he ate his full. Also, a tip – fork is easier to master than a spoon so start with that. And if you are not comfortable with the mess spread out a messy rug.
  4. No wastage –Whenever a child starts to eat he will drop some food by accident. It is inevitable. However, we should not let them play with the food or throw it around. Also, my mom asked me to get him in the habit to finish all on his plate and not leave the last few bites for his mommy to finish. It is sensible to put less on the plate – a portion size that we know they will eat for sure and then offer extra.
  5. Offer a variety – Like us, kids also get bored eating the same food day after day. So make sure you introduce a variety of grains and cereals once he’s old enough. Infact, I used to cook his food with our food just with little salt and minimum spices. If you want to cook separately that’s fine too – just make it look similar to the food you are eating. So if you are having dal, give him dal as well – though cooked in his style. Kids eye our plates and feel we are eating something better and tastier than what we are feeding them. This way they get the security that it’s all the same.
  6. Buy suction bowls and unbreakable cutlery – No matter how careful we are, the bowls will move around and having suction mechanism may help stay put. While mastering skills of eating with spoon and fork a child may drop them at times so buy only unbreakable stuff in attractive shapes and colours. Eating is more about the experience and they should get attracted to their plate of food. That’s the reason why at times we like to go to fine dining restaurants – our kids are no different.
  7. Give options to choose from –Once your child is old enough, offer options for the meal and ask him to pick. This makes him more engaged to the cause and he will most likely stick to his choice. If you feel he does not stick to what he opted for, you can either withdraw the habit of giving choices or explain to him that it will be boring for him only to let others decide his dinner!

We don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see us eating right, not wasting and following good habits, they’ll take notice of our efforts and will develop similar styles as they grow up.

Do you have additional tips to add to this list? Which of these worked for you? Let me know in the comments section below. This article was first published on Momspresso (erstwhile mycity4kids).

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