As young children grow and develop, it is important to encourage and foster a positive attitude to food and mealtimes. It is essential for them to eat well so they can get the nutrients they need for their health and development. Encouraging them to enjoy food and mealtimes isn’t always easy, but helping them learning about food and eating can help them enjoy it and even perhaps make them inquisitive about where it comes from, cooking, etc.
- Young children watch and listen to others – if they see you and their older brothers/ sisters eating food with enjoyment, even potentially faddy/reluctant eaters will get the message eventually.
- Prepare and cook family meals carefully as grown-up food, cut-up for a very young child, can be higher in fat, salt and sugar than the pureed food they were used to as a baby.
- Put less on a child’s plate and use a smaller plate so that everything is in proportion and they do not feel overwhelmed at mealtimes.
- Some children eat little and often so offer snacks.
- Try to avoid making comments like “this will make you strong”; “it’s good for you” or “eat your crusts, it’ll make your hair curl” as this can make them resistant to eating certain foods.
- Serve fruit after a meal, or just give a small quantity of pudding or dessert. Try not to bribe a reluctant meat or vegetable eater with the promise of pudding or a sweet thing as this will reinforce the idea that sweet things are more desirable.
- Remember that young children have smaller appetites than older brothers/sisters and parents, so try giving them food and drink in small portions more often through the day.
- If you put food in different dishes on the table for people to help themselves, your children can choose how much and what they want to eat and they can always come back for more.
- Don’t make food a big issue. If food is picked at or refused for a long time, don’t force the issue. Mealtimes should never be a battleground but rather about enjoying the food and company of the rest of the family.
- Think about planting some fruit or vegetable seeds and encourage your child to help them grow. Once it is ready to use, you can both cook with it and it can help them see how food is grown.
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