Learning through food: what eating brings to the table

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They’re constantly on the go, discovering things, playing and getting bigger on a daily basis! Food is vital for fuelling your toddler’s development physically, but it’s also helps them develop mentally.  Now is a great time to encourage your little one to play with their food and experiment with self feeding.

Learning through food: what eating brings to the table

Here’s what food can do:

  • Independence – your toddler will be interested in feeding themselves at this stage. Let them hold their own spoon and give them finger foods to help hand-eye co-ordination.
  • Getting involved - if you give your toddler a chance to help prepare meals, they’ll probably be more interested in  trying the food. Ask your toddler to choose a couple of vegetables which you can then cook for dinner. As they get older, they may be able to lend a hand with mixing food in bowls, grating cheese and setting the table.
  • Social skills – joining in at mealtimes can help your toddler learn about social interaction. They can copy what you and the rest of the family do, and find out what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. Remember - this is your chance to be a good role model for your child’s eating.
  • Co-ordination – handling their own spoon, feeding themselves and picking up finger foods helps develop hand-eye co-ordination. Grasping small things like peas with their fingers can encourage fine motor skills and smaller, more intricate movements.
  • Building tastes – it’s normal for toddlers to go through a fussy stage and be suspicious of new foods. Feeding themselves can help your child to become more accepting of new foods. They can take their time to investigate and become familiar with what’s on their plate. 

Doing in on their own: encouraging self-feeding

Almost all children by the time they are toddlers have had a go at feeding themselves, this is an important part of their development.

A few tips:

  • Finger foods – offer your toddler a variety of options like toast strips or small sandwiches, small pieces of cheese, pieces of cooked vegetables or slices of fruit.
  • Join in – try giving your toddler one spoon, while you have another. They can learn by copying what you do, and at least some food will make in into their mouths. 
  • Relax – messy mealtimes are a common part of learning about the way food feels, smells and tastes. Don’t worry too much, as your child gets older there will be plenty of time for them to learn about eating with less mess!

Always supervise your toddler when they are eating. Never leave them alone, as some foods are choking hazards.

 

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