Mum and Dad, did you know that eating is about more than just food for me? The touch and texture of food sends useful information to my brain. Being a toddler is very important time: even while eating I’m discovering and exploring. When I eat, I learn what behaviour you expect from me at a meal.
What you see as just a meal, I see as my big chance! I WANT to learn how to feed myself. When I put my hands into my food and then bring my hand up to my face some of that food is going to enter my mouth and I think, wow, well done me, feeding myself!
Here, I’ve done a list to make it easier for you to help me when I’m eating…
- Show me how. If whoever is feeding me could model licking their fingers, I can copy the action. This really helps my self-feeding. When you let me touch my food and experience it in this way, and let me be familiar with mess, you’re helping me.
- Don’t touch! I know you want to keep wiping the food off my face, but please don’t. It’s just not very nice. It interrupts my experience and enjoyment.
- Be patient with me. Fear of food and food refusal is not unusual for us toddlers, especially once we reach two. It’s because I’m mobile now, and I just love putting everything I find in my mouth, so you have to say, “stop, don’t put that in your mouth” or “spit it out”. This tells me that some things I put in my mouth are dangerous (which is true!), but I could easily transfer that worry onto the food I put into my mouth, and start refusing it or spitting it out as well. Some toddlers limit the amount of food they eat for a while at this age too. Don’t put an emotional charge around food, as this just makes me more anxious and resistant. It also teaches me that refusing to eat can have a huge effect on you. Once you know I’m eating enough, don’t force me to eat the foods I am avoiding right now.
- Lots of little tries works best. I need to taste something a few times before I can accept it, especially if it is a new taste and texture for me. Try giving me small taster amounts of something new each day. It might take a few calm attempts to get me to accept it.
- Remember that I fill up easy! There are other reasons I might refuse to eat. Sometimes I’m full and don’t have the appetite to eat more. Even healthy snacks can fill me up, so if you’ve given me too many and I’m not hungry enough for my meal, then I’ll refuse it.
- My hunger levels go up and down. The amount of food I need to eat each day will vary and depends upon how active I have been, if I am going through a developmental or growth spurt. I mightn’t want to eat if I’m tired, poorly, coming down with something or teething (those really hurt!). If you rush me and try to get me fed too quickly, or if I feel pressured to eat, or you shout at me or get angry with me about eating I get uh-oh feelings in my tummy. When that happens, I don’t want to eat.
Toddler Top Tip…
“Thinking about what and how I eat from my perspective. We can work it out by working together!”