This is what days off are all about.
Alfie enjoyed the measuring out, getting messy, mixing it together and of course the eating!!
Setting a good, positive, relationship with food early on is essential for our childrens' health now and for the future. And fun!!
What our children see us eat and hear what we say about food will install their beliefs about food too. If they see you avoiding of mocking food it will cast doubt in their mind and will be nervous about trying it.
When observing friends with their children it's amazing how quick they are to project their own views onto a situation. One friend would constantly feed her weaning baby snacks throughout the day and then wonder why he wasn't hungry at mealtimes. She would also reiterate over and over in front of her baby when weaning "what a bad eater he was" and if she gave him something to eat and he played with it, she would say "Oh you don't like that do you?" and then remove it and give him the snacks he liked.
From an outsider you may be thinking that is ridiculous, how is he ever going to learn to try new foods? And you would be right in many respects but when you are in that situation and close to the problem, sense often flies out of the window for fear of your child going hungry and not growing and you just become focused on getting any food they will eat into them. This sadly is counter productive and plays into their psyche that by behaving this way gets them what they want, when they want it and with lots of attention. WIn-win-win for them and lose-lose-lose for the parents.
My poor son on the other hand doesn't have the luxury of being pampered like that. He has always eaten what we eat as soon as he was weaned virtually, even if I cooked his in a separate pot so that I could add some ingredients to ours that contained things slightly saltier or chilli hot, his food would always look like ours. He was introduced to spices from 7 months with regular curries but without the chilli and now loves trying new foods and so we can be pretty relaxed when we go anywhere for food that he will eat what is on offer.
However I am not saying he is perfect by any means. He is still a child (3.5 years) when they are learning to push boundaries, so if he decides not to eat something then we subtly encourage him without making it a big deal. This can be quite tricky to keep calm when you have made a lovely meal and he says "Don't like that" (this is a common theme when we have a roast, which I used to do as a kid too, as I hated roasts when young even though mum was a good cook) but it's vital not to make it an issue and prevent giving attention for the negative behaviour of eating i.e. being fussy. I then tell him "that's fine but this is all that's on offer". I then leave it on the side or in the fridge to heat up if he decides he is hungry later. He then tries to negotiate what he wants to eat after we have finished but it's so important to stand firm and the next meal he eats whatever is on offer as pretty hungry.
So my Top Tips:
1) You are the parent and so you are in control of what your weaning child eats
2) Give them a variety of foods to keep trying and even if they seem not to like it, it is important to keep reintroducing it as can take up to 7-10 times before a young child likes a food and this increases with age. So start introducing strong flavours early on as will have a better chance of liking it in the long run.
3) Praise them when they are eating well, and praise others around for eating well. Never chastise your child over food.
4) Never force a child to eat everything on their plate as important that they can listen to their satiety switch (the bodies mechanism to say they have had enough, and they are full.
5) Stay calm! Never make an issue around them not eating it. Just state the conditions i.e. "If you're not hungry then you don't have to eat it but this is all there is until the next mealtime, so up to you?" and carry on with your meal.
6) Follow up your conditions and don't back down!
7) Don't be tempted to give children lots of snacks between meals, especially if they are poor eaters at mealtimes.
8) Children test boundaries so they may suddenly develop fussy tendencies when previously been a good eater. If you continue offering a wide variety of food and stay calm but with set boundaries around food, then they will come back to being good eaters.
9) Try and make mealtimes a social event with as many of the family around the table as possible, chatting about everyone's day. Great way to set up social skills and quality time to catch up with each others news.
10) Food challenges. When friends are around challenge the children to close their eyes and try new foods. Make it a game and fun activity. But be careful of allergies with other children.
Remember even if you are having to be tough, they will thank you in the long run as being a fussy eater will effect your whole family and them later on in life.