For many children with additional needs, mealtimes can be a battleground. Learning to eat grown up food is like any other skill such as writing or riding a bike – they learn bit by bit, at their own pace, and because they want to. As difficult as mealtimes may seem, try to remember that children want to eat, and they want to grow up and eat the food that you eat. To help your child learn the joy of eating, we can follow the division of responsibility in feeding.
Some of your jobs with feeding are to . . .
- Choose and prepare the food. Prepare food that you enjoy. Be considerate with meal planning without catering.
- Provide regular meals and snacks. Structured family mealtime and sit-down snacks are a great way to develop consistent eating habits.
- Make eating times pleasant. Creating a positive mealtime or sit-down snack environment is an effective way to encourage your child to enjoy their food. Focus on enjoying your own meal while your child eats.
Along with these, part of your feeding job is to trust that your child will . . .
- Eat the amount they need. Try not to make your child eat less or more. Dictating the amount that a child eats will often backfire and have the opposite effect.
- Learn to eat the food you eat. Most of the foods that are familiar to you are entirely new to a young child. Be patient and avoid bribery, cheerleading or saying that “it’s healthy”. Through exploration and experimentation your child will gradually learn to eat what you eat.
You can find more family friendly information about the division of responsibility in feeding at https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding/
If you would like additional guidance around feeding or challenging mealtime behaviours, feel free to get in touch using the Contact Us link above.