Start with what you are already eating…just eat it at regular snack and mealtimes.
Therefore there is no need to change the foods you are eating, just the time you eat them. Start to show your child that eating together is an important and normal part of your family life
Tables aren’t even necessary!
The key is sitting facing each other and sharing the same food and, certainly, turning off the TV and putting away toys and electronic devices.
Eat with your child (don’t just watch them eat or feed them).
This is one of the most valuable things you can do to support your child’s eating and adventure to learn about new foods, if the food is not available, how can they learn about it and perhaps even try it?
Include at least 1 food your child generally accepts.
Ellyn Satter describes that a child will eat best when mealtime rules and expectations make it possible for them to be successful. This is a tricky one as it doesn’t mean always putting peanut butter or cereal on the table, as this tells your child “I don’t expect you to learn to accept new foods into your diet’. But it does mean including a common mealtime food your child will eat so family mealtimes can happen – if there is nothing at the mealtime that your child accepts they will come to the meal already stressed and anxious about what they might have to eat, or they won’t come to the meal in the first place.
Let your child decide what and how much to eat from what is on the table.
Ellen refers to this as the Division of Responsibility. Caregivers and children have roles and responsibilities around mealtimes (we will talk about this more in an upcoming post) but essentially as the caregiver, it is your responsibility to choose the time meals and snacks will be offered and within those mealtimes, to offer a range of food options. It is your child’s responsibility to choose what and how much to eat.
Make mealtimes pleasant.
Talk and enjoy each other and take the focus off eating food (or not eating certain foods, or how much was not eaten…you get where I’m going here!) and rather focus on what each person in the family did that day, what you will do the next day/on the weekend, what is everyone’s favourite animal…when will you next go to the Zoo or the beach … how hard the floor is on your bottom while you’re having a picnic, and perhaps next time you will bring a little pillow to sit on or make a pile of leaves to sit on if you’re eating in a park…the thing is you can talk about ANYTHING at family mealtimes, that’s what makes mealtimes unique to your family.
Key points from the article
- Start with what you are already eating…just eat it at regular snack and mealtimes
- Tables aren’t even necessary!
- Eat with your child
- Include at least 1 food your child generally accepts
- Let your child decide what and how much to eat from what is on the table
Make mealtimes pleasant by chatting about everything other than who is/isn’t eating which foods!
Ellyn Satter (2019) ‘Mastering Meals Step By Step’ See: www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-eat/mastering-meals-step-by-step/