Does dinner time sometimes feel a bit more like finger painting than productive food consumption?
If so, you are not the only one on your hands and knees cleaning up oatmeal and fruit off your floor; finding cheerios and half nibbled nuggets of food scattered in every crack and corner of your kitchen.
When children are first introduced to solids, recommended by the AAP between 4-6 months of age, it is all about exploration of taste, color, texture and smell. Their nutrition still comes predominantly from breast milk and/or formula, with their diet supplemented by solids. As infants grow in to toddlers, that ratio changes, and once they approach 12 months, are allowed to have whole milk and increased (and diversified) amounts of solids.
That is when the fun begins…You will soon learn that consuming the food is just part of the process. There is decorating the dinner table (or high chair), sharing with their furry friends (if you have pets) and most importantly practicing their pitching arm as your little one propels food everywhere.
Do not get discouraged, your artist is simply making their own version of a masterpiece. Eating is a very entertaining procedure for babies, so try to encourage their freedom of expression. Allow them to try new foods, and even “play” with their meal from time to time. You may be surprised with what delicacy they decide to devour next.
Tips When Feeding Your Favorite Foodie:
- Be Patient, Yet Persistent:
Remember to introduce (and re-introduce) food to your little one. It may take severals times before your big eater enjoys the new item on his or her menu.
- Get Creative with Cooking:
Try to include different colors, tastes and textures in your meal. Feel free to give your baby/toddler their favorite foods, but also introduce new entrees, fruits, veggies and grains to their repertoire.
- Make an Interesting Menu:
Your little one will eventually eat 5 balanced meals a day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. This food schedule is a good place to start around 9 months and allows you to provide both consistency as well as creativity to your food choices.
- Provide Balance for Baby:
Discuss your baby/toddler’s diet with your pediatrician to ensure you are supplying the appropriate nutrients, including grains, veggies, fruits and protein in your menu.
- Tinker with a Toy:
Sometimes it is helpful to have your little one’s hands occupied…supplying them with 1 small, not too distracting toy, may provide them with the focus needed to eat their food.
This “toy” could be a cold or frozen spoon (Beaba is great for this). This type of spoon, or similar teething toy is a wonderful way to help numb sore gums and teeth, making your mealtime a bit more manageable. Your baby may also enjoy perusing his or her favorite board book during breakfast. Others may find it fascinating to cover and then uncover an empty tupperware container during dinner.
While some may feel that meal time should be focused solely on feeding, remember that your baby is entering toddlerhood and with that comes a fascination with everything unfamiliar. Children are incredibly curious creatures and may just enjoy a little research on their food’s surroundings while appreciating their favorite meal.
Boston Babies will be featuring articles on how to test out new tastes with your little one. Later this month learn how to “Diversity Your Dining” and find interesting restaurants to explore in and around the city.