This guest post is by Eve Reed of FamilyFoodWorks
When I hear that parents (usually mothers) are preparing more than one meal each evening, I am not surprised that they find feeding their family stressful. They start food preparation in the afternoon and finish after feeding their children and then later, their partner. In short, they are dealing with food, either cooking, feeding, cleaning up etc for several hours of the day.
From about one year of age, and often earlier, children can be offered the same meal as the rest of the family. It may need to be chopped up so they can manage to feed themselves. They will probably still need help with foods such as yogurt, custard, soup and other foods that are eaten from a spoon. I can hear the parent saying ‘they won’t eat what we eat’. They definitely won’t if they are not offered what they eat. They are likely to eat if:
- They have been offered some leftover meals from an earlier age so they are familiar with the family foods.
- The child is hungry when they come to the meal. Parents often serve dinner too close to afternoon tea. Children need to be hungry in order to want to eat. Serve dinner 2 1/2 to 3 hours after afternoon tea, so that they have had a chance to get hungry.
- Let them decide what to eat from what is offered. Coaxing, bribing or distracting a child usually has the opposite effect to what is desired. They may fall for it in the beginning but not for long!
- Turn off the TV, DVD or iPad. Sure, they might eat a bit in front of the screen, but it is a good idea that they are aware of what they are eating rather than being fed food while distracted.
- Cook and serve whatever the rest of the family is eating. Children adapt to their family’s food rather than parents having to adapt to what they think their children might eat.
Let children decide what they want to eat from what is being offered as the family meal, having at least one food on the table that the child will eat if they are hungry.