How to make mealtimes fun for little ones!
This post was written in my role as dietitian for the brand For Aisha.
When weaning begins it can feel fun for those first few meals- but quickly becomes quite hard work. Suddenly you have more items to carry when you go out, more to fit into your day and more decisions to make around which foods to feed your baby.
Babies are very clever and pick up on theirs carer’s mood and attitude to food. They are like little sponges and soak up all that they see. How you react to food will therefore impact your little one, and if you seem stressed they could begin associating mealtimes with something negative. So keeping mealtimes light hearted and fun will help your little one eat and enjoy their food. Here I share some top tips on how to keep mealtimes fun:
1) Let them be messy:
Let them play with their food and make every meal time messy play! This is just part of development and learning. It may be a bigger cleanup, but your little one is learning some top skills; for example, dropping food onto the floor teaches them about distance and objects falling, squishing foods is such a wonderful sensory activity, and dipping food changes the texture and makes it wet.
2) Make the meal look fun:
Cut up food into different shapes. This could simply be cutting vegetables in different ways, cutting sandwiches into fingers or triangles, or using food cutters to create shapes.
Try arranging foods to make a picture on the plate. A simple face adding veggies into their rice, making a butterfly with their sandwich or a caterpillar with their fruit.
Offer a range of colours on their plate. This could be with food or using a colourful plate. We eat with all our senses including our eyes, so having a colourful plate of food makes it more enticing for your little one.
3) Give them some independence:
Look out for fun plates and bowls and when your little one is old enough let them choose which ones they want to use. That little bit of independence can make a real difference.
Let them feed themselves. Babies like to have some control over what they eat and how they eat it. Whilst you may not want them to feed themselves everything, letting them have a few finger foods can bring them a sense of independence and also give you time to eat yourself.
Give your little one some cutlery to play with, even if they can’t quite use it properly. Weaning is all about experimenting and learning.
4) Keep the conversation flowing:
When you go out for a meal or host a dinner party a huge element of what makes it enjoyable is the conversation. Chatting to your little one about the foods they are eating, about your day or even telling a story is a great idea. It teaches them that mealtimes are not just about what you eat but also about enjoying being together as a family.
5) Be a Role Model:
Most importantly, find ways to enjoy the meal yourself and eat together. If your little one can see that you are enjoying your food and that mealtimes are a safe, fun time then they will want to join in.