Mealtime can be a fun learning experience for little ones. Sitting down as a family to eat can teach children how to eat and help them develop social skills. Having a routine can also help children know what to expect when it is time for meals or snacks.
Try incorporating these guidelines with your little one:
- Wash your child’s hands before mealtime.
- Put a newspaper or plastic mat on the floor under your child’s high chair or booster seat to help with cleanup.
- Sit your child in a high chair or booster seat with a safety strap.
- Watch your child at all times to make sure he or she is safe.
Help Them Focus
- Face your child toward you or other family members at the table.
- Avoid letting TV, videos, cell phones or pets distract your child from eating. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children avoid using screens until they are 18 months old, unless video-chatting with friends or family.) These can distract you too! Focus on your child during mealtime.
- Talk with your child during mealtime. This can be a fun time for both of you, and it is important for your child to have your attention.
Guide Their Food Choices
- When your little one first starts eating foods, you may use a spoon or your child may use his or her fingers. As they age, young children will develop different skills to help with mealtime.
- Children may eat different amounts of food each day. This is normal. Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned about how much, or how little, he or she is eating.
- Model healthy eating to help your child learn to try new foods.
- Let your child decide how much to eat. Your child does not have to finish all the food on his or her plate or drink all the liquid in the cup or bottle. Watch your child for signs that he or she is hungry or full.