Ever wonder how the spaghetti got on the ceiling? A Toddler’s independent, curious and active behaviour at mealtimes can be a common source of stress for parents. It is not uncommon for toddlers to express their new found independence at mealtime.
Teaching mealtime manners from a young age can promote good behaviours and remove stress for families. Here are some key points to remember at mealtimes:
- Develop mealtime routines, such as all meals and snacks are to be eaten sitting down at the table. This works well when you also reduce distractions such as turning the television off.
- Don’t schedule mealtimes when your toddler may be overtired.
- Get your toddler involved, ask them to help you set the table or give a little hand with preparing the meal.
- As fun as running around with a snack can be, a toddler should not eat whilst running around as this is a potential choking hazard.
- Make mealtime a fun and positive experience for your toddler. Get your child involved in family discussions so they are more likely to stay at the table.
- Again, establishing some routines is key; tell your child that their meal is over when they leave the table. Follow up by taking away their plate to signal the end of mealtime. If they are hungry later, offer them a healthy snack.
- Explain the advantages of good table manners. For example you will not be understood if you are talking with your mouth full.
Be A Good Role Model
- Lead by example and model the same behaviours you expect from your little one about mealtime manners.
Handling Mealtime Utensils
- While it may be a little bit messy, introducing utensils to your toddler is a task that they can enjoy. It is also an opportunity to use their new found independence.
- Toddlers find it easier to eat with their fingers. Remember to provide them with simple tasks that they can manage e.g. eat one piece at a time.
- Toddlers can handle a spoon and cup to feed themselves, just make sure they are made to fit their hand and mouth.
- Providing your toddler with food that is cut into strips or fingers is easier for them to manage versus large pieces.
- It takes practice and many years to develop the skills that are required to eat neatly with a knife and fork. Practice makes perfect!
Simple rewards such as complimenting your child, offering stickers, or stamps may help to enforce good table manners. Don’t use desserts or non-nutritious foods as bribes this will not help to encourage good behaviour. When your toddler’s manners slip remind them gently, and don’t make an issue out of it.