Our end-goal is always for kids to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet full of the nutrients their bodies need, but the most effective way to get there isn’t necessarily by eating 3 bites or 5 bites or ‘just one more bite.’ The most effective way to get there is to focus on time at the table.
Kids need time with a food to explore it, get used to it, see others eating it–time to learn that a new food is something safe they might want to try themselves. We all need lots of exposure and exploration to take the leap to try something new. New things are unknown and the unknown is scary because we just don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
Trying a new food is an unknown that’s more scary to some and less scary to others based on each person’s individual body and past experiences with food. We can’t change how scary something is for a child, but we can change how we approach teaching them to take the leap to try it.
If we focus on time at the table rather than bites taken, we’re making the opportunity to explore foods the priority and taking the pressure out of an eating situation at the same time! By offering opportunities with foods without pressure to take bites, kids have the space and time they need to explore and learn.
You can focus on time at the table by saying “You don’t have to eat it,” to any complaints, whining or refusal at the table. Or, if coming to the table to eat is a challenge in and of itself, you can focus on time at the table by setting a timer. Somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes is a great amount of time to expect a toddler/young child to sit at the table for a meal, but just start with the amount of time a child’s comfortable at the table and work up to a full mealtime, if they’re not there yet.
Pick any activity from the pull-down menu on the right to get ideas for how to explore different foods. Or you could start food time at the table with a book about food like the Animal Alphabet e-book. Talk and giggle about the Avocado Alligator and the Jam Jellyfish to get ready to explore foods and add food learning to book time. Sign up here to get the Animal Alphabet e-book and all the other great resources in the free resource library!
I hope you have fun at the table and happy food play!