As an struggling parent trying to improve on my own toddler feeding I cannot help but watch the interaction between other parents and kids when it comes to feeding time. I have seen many techniques adopted by parents to get their toddlers to eat and some are more effective than others.
The one thing that does seem to be universal (and universally overlooked) is the toddlers’ desire for independence and this was demonstrated as I was watching a Mum trying to feed her two year old in the local shopping center food court .
The child was quite well behaved and sitting in her pram next to her Mum. Some kind of pasta was on the menu and the child had happily eaten a couple of spoonfuls of the stuff before suddenly refusing anymore.
Mum tried in vain to get her to eat some more but the kid flatly refused until Mum gave up and put the spoon in the bowl and turned to talk to the friend she was sitting with.
While Mum was not watching the toddler carefully reached up into the bowl to grab the spoon and with great concentration tried to get some pasta into her mouth.
She managed to get a couple of mouthfuls in before Mum turned around to see what she was doing. “Oh, so you are hungry after all” she said and took the spoon, filled it with pasta and attempted once again to feed the child. Again the child refused.
Mum sighs the ‘I don’t know what to do with you child’ sigh, drops the spoon back in the bowl and continues her conversation whereby the child picks up the spoon and again attempts to feed herself.
I wish I could tell you that it all ended happily with the industrious toddler feeding herself and the Mum praising her for being such a big and clever girl but unfortunately that was not the case.
As the bowl was not really placed conveniently for a toddler to feed she invariably knocked it off the table and onto the floor in her attempts to feed herself.
An exasperated Mum then scolded the child for throwing food on the floor and embarrassing her in a restaurant and they all left with the child looking confused and probably feeling slightly hungry. She definitely wanted to eat she just didn’t want to be fed.
When you watch these little ones closely you realize that all they want to be is independent like us. We can make it easier for them (and us) in the feeding department if we give them things that they can eat on their own.
This helps them to practice and it gives them confidence in using kitchen utensils. For example our child loves spaghetti bolognaise but it is almost impossible for her to eat it by herself and subsequently she will not touch it.
When we changed the spaghetti to penne (little tubes) she would happily sit in her chair and stab pieces of penne with her own fork. It may take a little longer and be a little messier but more food gets eaten and that should make everyone happier.
No help required….