As children grow older you'll make the transition from feeding them every mouthful, to the point where they can eat their own food. Most babies will give you clear signs that they are wanting to try to learn to use cutlery. Give them a spoon and they will be keen to dig in themselves having watched you eating for some time. They should be able to use a spoon to feed themselves from around 9 months old and in time can move on to a fork and then a knife and fork.
Learning to use cutlery requires many different skills to be honed. They need the fine motor skills required to pick up a spoon or fork, and the skill and co-ordination to load it with food and raise it to their mouth, all without dropping the food load! Remember that they can't even see their mouth so arriving there is largely down to trial and error. Babies bones are still developing at this early stage, remaining soft and flexible, not hardening until around 18months. This compounds the problems in mastering control.
Be patient and encourage children as they demonstrate the will to learn to feed themselves. You will have to tolerate the mess that is bound to end up everywhere. If you have a hard floor where they eat, in the kitchen or in a room with bare floorboards, then clearing up is that much easier. If you have carpet then you may want to put down a highchair floor mat to give you an easy-clean surface all around. You will also find that a plastic bib with a pocket to catch spilled food is practical at this stage.
Choosing cutlery is partly down to your own preference. Most children start on cutlery with broad plastic handles which are easier to grip, but you may prefer to go straight to stainless steel cutlery with easy grip but slightly less bulky handles. All-plastic forks, with plastic tines, tend to be difficult to use to pick up food and we would recommend avoiding these - look for cutlery with stainless steel heads at the very least.
Babies will usually eat almost any food put in front of them, but as the ygrow older, children become more discerning about their food, fussy even! If you can encourage your children to eat a broad array of food then life iwll be so much easier. Meal times won't resemble a battlefield, you'll find it easier to eat with other families or out in restaurants, and you won't have any concerns that your little ones are eating a balanced diet.
Grocers and supermarkets offer a huge variety of different types of fruit and vegetables, but we are often creatures of habit, regularly buying only a small selection of fruit and veg that we know well. For example, fruit may be restricted to apples, bananas, grapes and oranges and vegetables to potatoes, broccoli, carrots and peas.
Why not try to broaden your little one's tastes by holding a week long 'Fruit and Vegetable Fiesta' in your home? See if you can introduce one new type of fruit and one new type of vegetable with your main meal, each day for a week. You could try old favourites that your little ones may not have had in a while, or you could seek out some of the really exotic foods that are now widely stocked in our shops.
Here are some suggestions for uncommon and more unusual fruit and vegetables, see if you can slip some of these into your Fruit and Vegetable Fiesta. Scour the fresh food department next time your in the supermarket and see what else you can try...!
|Passion fruit||Star fruit||Corn on the cob||Bok choy|
|Watermelon||Dragon fruit||Celery||Pinto beans|
If women eat low fat yoghurt during pregnancy they could be putting their unborn child at risk. Recent reports have suggested that babies born of women who ate low fat yoghurt during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma and hayfever (allergic rhinitis).
The findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress. They were looking at whether fatty acids found in some dairy products could protect against the development of allergic diseases in children.
70,000 Danish women and their eating habits were analysed and then they were followed and tested until the children were seven years old. The researchers assessed milk and dairy intake during pregnancy and monitored the occurance of asthma and hayfever in the children.
Results demonstrated that milk intake during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of developing asthma. In fact, it actively protected against asthma development.
What did show up was the fact that women who ate low-fat yoghurt with fruit once a day were 1.6-times more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7. These findings are compared to those women who reported no intake during their pregnancy.
The reasoning behind the findings suggest that non-fat related nutrients in yoghurt could in fact contribute to increasing the risk.
Teaching your toddler some basic rituals when it comes to everyday livinhg is a great and easy way to introduce some good (and advisable!) habits into their lives. The more they get used to following these simple rules, the easier it will be to keep them safe and actually introduce them to some good practice.
- Hands Please - Make sure you get into the habit of washing hands in certain situations: before eating, after playing outside, after going to the toilet and after stroking pets. Make it more fun by having nice smelly soap that the children can reach and use on their own if they are old enough. Make sure there's a step to reach the tap and a nice fresh towel to wipe clean.
- Going To The Toilet - Teach the little ones how to wipe their bottoms as soon as they start going to the toilet. If they practice how to do it properly on their own from the start they will get into the habit and keep doing it when they go to the toilet alone. Make sure you teach them how to flush and close the toilet lip safely. Use moist wipes to ensure they are fresh.
- Teeth - Make sure you get your child to wash their teeth twice a day and do yours at the same time too to show them that you do it as well. Supervise and do the washing, but also let them try too and have a brush about. Explain that good brushing means healthy teeth and no uncomfortable cavities!
- Food Fun - Try and keep to a healthy diet. Sweet things are allowed, of course, but keep them to a minimum and after having eaten the healthy foods. Create a food chart to ensure you eat five fresh fruits or vegetables each day. Encourage the children to pick which fruit to have at the supermarket. Eat the fruit and vegetables in different ways: cooked in stews, cooked an their own, raw, chopped into slices or sticks. Make sure you choose colourful vegetables with your meals and even try presenting in different ways. Could broccoli and carrot sticks be a forest? Explain that sweet things are fine in moderation but that is the vitamins, minerals, dairy products, carbohydrates and all good foods that help us grow, give us energy and have fun. And, of course, drink lots of water too!
- Keep the Family Moving - Explain that keeping active is a fabulous way to have fun, keep healthy and keep happy! Do walks or bike rides together, or go for swimming sessions as a family. Walk to school or nursery when you can and walk to the local shops too. Run about in local parks or open spaces or head to soft play centres to climb and run and swing about. Get a bike for your little one as early as you can and encourage them to ride. Dance about and sing songs too and be as active as you can.
- Sleep Time - Getting enough sleep is vital for you and your child so make sure you get into the habit of good and long nights sleep from an early age. Of course there are often troubles with sleeping, but do you best to get them to sleep alone and go back to sleep when they wake in the night. Stick to regular bed times, make sure they are warm enough (though, not too hot!), that they have teddies/comforters nearby, that the room is dark but not too dark to make it alarming if they wake.
- Be Safe - Teach them some basic safety requirements and they will be less likely to have accidents throughout their childhood. Show them how to climb stairs and come down safely. Show them how to get into chairs and get out again. And practise over and again to make sure they are confident and safe.
- Sunny Days - Always apply suncream as a matter of course and keep it handy throughout the day should you need to re-apply. Make it a part of your routine when leaving the house so it becomes normal to apply the cream with minimum fuss.
Between 12 and 18 months, your baby will start to show an interest in looking after themselves and wanting to feed themselves with a spoon or fork. You will already have been feeding them with a spoon since weaning, and they will have observed adults feeding themselves with cutlery, so it is a logical step for them to try feeding themselves with a spoon. Another clue that the time is right is if your baby is feeding themselves with their hands.
At first, this is going to be messy! You can buy large easy clean mats to place on the floor under high chairs and this might be a sensible idea if they are eating in a carpeted area.
Feeding yourself with a spoon introduces all sorts of challenges; picking food off the plate with the utensil, keeping the plate still while scooping, rather than chasing it around their tray, learning where their mouth is and how long the spoon is! All of this requires learning. It will come relatively quickly, but offer encouragement and more than a little help. This is an important milestone for your baby and is an early step towards a life of independence.
Weaning, for most parents, is approached with trepidation and a sense of fear! Oh no, it's time for solids: mess, tantrums, choking, lots of cooking for the food to be thrown across the room, lots of washing and not much food being eaten! But, it doesn't have to be like this at all! With these quick tips in place, you will both enjoy the weaning time without tears and have some fun on the way.
Prepare: even though they can't speak to you, begin the run up to weaning, by telling your child they're going to be eating purées and being a grown-up and things are all going to be great! They little ones may have seen others eat solids, so tell them they're going to be like their big sister or cousin and how exciting it's going to be. This may help you prepare for it too!
Have the right equipment: get some shallow weaning spoons, little dishes, lots of wipes and bibs and a decent high chair with a little table etc. Perhaps some high chair toys if you think you may need them.
Be safe: never leave your child alone with food or the spoon just in case they choke.
Don't rush: weaning takes time, so don't rush them, or yourself.
Portion control: start with tiny amounts of baby rice and milk. Just make up small amounts so you don't waste. When you move on to purée vegetables etc, again use just a little bit of your supply each time so you don't spoil it and waste it if it is dropped etc.
Encourage, don't force feed: if you are worried that your baby is not eating enough speak to your GP or health visitor. Don't force feed.
Eating with friends: try to make meal times a social event. Eat with your child or invite others over to eat with you so they see others eating too. Watching other children eat can be a great advantage and really help little ones learn to eat.
New flavours: if they don't like apple today, try it tomorrow and the next day and the next day! Sometimes it takes a few tries to get them to try and eat a new flavour.
If they gag: stay calm and rub their back to try to get the food out. Keep things very smooth and milky to start with. If they continue to have a problem speak to a health professional.
Still feed them milk: weaning babies still need about 500ml of milk each day so keep them on milk too while weaning.
Ideally wait until 6 months: government guidelines say wait until baby is six month before weaning. Breast milk until then is ideal, or formula milk. If you have a history of allergies, waiting is especially important. Speak to your doctor to get their advice if you are concerned.
Don't give up: keep trying in small amounts until things become easy and progress is made, but don't expect things to be easy from day one! They may cry, they may spit it out, they may make strange faces, they may refuse all together, but be calm and persistent and you'll win them over!
If you are looking for inspiration to tempt your little ones at lunch time, here are a few ideas to make lunch time less boring! Whether lunch is normally at home, or at nursery or school, there are lots of easy ways you can make lunch more exciting and tasty than the same on sarnies!
Different bread: try little rolls, neatly cut in half or different types of rolls such as brioche, twisted rolls or bagels. Tortilla wraps or pitta is another good and cheap idea.
Go French: try filling croissants with some ham and cheese for a continental lunch treat.
Pasta: cooled pasta with some chopped vegetables and cubes of ham is easy and tasty to eat.
Dippy: try cutting cucumber, carrot, celery into sticks and include a pot of hummus in the lunch box for some dippy treats. Add some pitta bread to dip too!
Finger food: cubes cheese, ham, vegetables and fruit need to be eaten with fingers. They can be a tasty and healthy lunch option.
Couscous salad: couscous is the easiest food to prepare. Make a portion the night before and cool. Cut some cherry tomatoes, cucumber, hams and peppers into tiny pieces and mix well. Pop into a lunch box with a fork for a great lunchtime snack.
Crackers: get hold of some cheese biscuits or crackers for another option. Wrap tightly so they stay fresh and serve alongside cheese slices and apples.
Research published by the School Food Trust has confirmed that children who eat school lunches are more willing to try new foods that they would not normally try at home. Over 1,000 parents were surveyed and an amazing 80% said their children had tried new things at school and some 50% said they were asked to cook new things at home, that the children had eaten at school!
School dinners therefore were a great way to encourage a varied and wide ranging menu for children. Seeing friends eating and tucking in to un familiar dishes is a good way to tempt little ones. Even children who were labelled as "fussy" by their parents found that their children ate well.
Tips for getting children to eat:
- Get them involved: grow some vegetables, get them to pick them from the supermarket shelf
- Take a step back: go to visit a pick your own farm or a farm where crops are grown.
- Be creative: make the food look nice! Use different coloured vegetables and make the meal attractive
- Think outside the box: name things in a more attractive way. Try offering Squiggly sausages, monster mash and squeaky peas rather than sausage, peas and potatoes.
- Get the children helping: they can chop easy things, help lay the table, choose a plate etc.
- Keep portions reasonable: don't overload the plate it can be very off-putting.
- Find out their favourites and use them if you can: if carrots and peas are top vegetables, then use them along with others and introduce new ones gradually!
Watching the cartoon character Popeye eat spinach really does encourage children to eat more of the green leafy vegetable in real life it has been reported.
In the cartoon, Popeye the Sailor man, eats cans of spinach to give himself extra strength and becomes stronger once he has eaten. It has been found that when children watched the cartoon, and saw him eat spinach, they copied and did the same. They too wanted to eat spinach, despite historically not wanting to.
According to a study published in the medical journal Nutrition & Diet, researchers studied children aged 4 and 5 years old. They looked at their diet of fruit and vegetables before and after the study. All 26 children were encouraged to plant their own seeds, tave tasting parties and watch Popeye cartoons. The Professor in charge of the study said their intake of vegetables almost doubled! In addition, the children become more interested overall in the fruit and vegetables forming part of their diet.
Teachers were also encouraged to get involved and were asked to be role models at lunch time in shcoold. Teachers were invited to eat fruit and vegetables at meal times with the children. It was reported by parents that even the talking about vegetables increased after the children were involved in the study. They also came home proud from school having eaten their vegetables at lunchtime.
Smita Srivastava has taken 'making food fun' to an extreme - we've all laid out vegetables into a smiley face, or cut toast into the shapes of animals in order to encourage our children to eat them, but Smita has taken food craft to a new level to encourage eating in her household! Smita writes a blog called Little Food Junction which pictures some of her amazing craft-quality food. Most of her cuisine wouldn't look out of place in a gallery rather than on a plate. Smita has become one of those internet sensations, go along to her blog and marvel at her creativity!
Why not try recreating some of Smita's artwork at home and get your little one involved. No matter how fussy they were when you set out, they are sure to delight in eating creations that look this tasty!
Babies should be introduced to finger foods aged between 6 and 9 months - eating with fingers helps improve hand-eye coordination as well as encouraging biting and chewing.
Here are some ideas for finger foods:-
- Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, apple etc.
- Sticks of fresh vegetables: carrots, peppers, cucumber, celery
- Chopped fruit: apple, pears, banana, grapes (sliced in half)
- Dry breakfast cereal
- Toast 'soldiers'
- Lumps of cheese
- Assorted cooked but cold pasta shapes
- Chopped cold meats such as pepperoni, salami and ham
- Chicken and fish goujons
When is the right time to introduce finger foods?
Babies develop at different rates - and quite a few skills have to be acquired in order to feed oneself! Babies need to be able to grip food between their thumb and finger; they must be able to chew or at least suck on solid foods; they must be able to lift food accurately into their mouths. It's wasy for us grown-ups to underestimate just how complex an operation feeding is, but giving babies finger food will help them to improve the required skills.
Without any encouragement, babies will begin to pick up food and try feeding themselves at around 8 months, some may start sooner and you can certainly try to encourage them sooner. Even without teeth babies are able to chew with their gums, but more often than not they'll just begin by sucking on food which starts breaking it down pretty quickly!
Start with foods that 'melt' in the mouth more easily or are very soft, and work up to more textured foods later.
Table manners are a tricky area for young families - you want your child to eat nutritiously whilst eating slowly enough to avoid gobbling and causing indigestion but fast enough to get on with the day! You want meals to be a happy experience for everyone and for their manners to be good: eating with mouth closed, not tallking when chewing, no rude comments about the size, look or taste of the food and 'please' and 'thank you' are welcome too!
But, don't be too hard on the children! They learn from example, so the first thing to do is show them (not tell them!) how to eat a meal properly. Start by making sure the children (even toddlers) sit throughout the duration of the meal. Make their time at the table as short as possible, so call them when their food is served and has cooled enough to eat.
Encourage them to stay at the table while you all eat. Of course, when you consider it appropriate they can get down, but try and establish the idea that you all stay at the table together for the meal. Don't expect too much though. A toddler is doing well if they don't throw food, so don't expect correct utensil use at age two!
Teach all toddlers and children to wash hands before eating. This is a good way to signify the beginning of the meal and is hygenic even if your child is beyond finger food. When they do mess around, try not to get angry, just explain in a calm voice what they are doing wrong.
Try to use 'please' and 'thank you' yourself! It's as easy for adults to forget but if the little ones see you saying it they will too! And, there's nothing nicer than a proper 'thank you' to the chef at the end of the meal! Especially encourage it when you're visiting friends and you're bound to be invited back!
The result, hopefully, is calmer and easier meals for you all! The earlier you start introducing good manners, the better the children will adopt the behaviour and do it without trying. Remember, mealtimes make for the most wonderful family occasions...every single day!
Once you have children, Christmas takes on a different focus - it's more magical, more emotive, almost certainly more expensive, but slightly unwelcome is the fact that is can be stressful because of the danger of even more children's tantrums. The excitement, the joy, the sheer exhaustion of the whole event can render the best behaved child into little monsters! So, what can we do to avoid these embarrassing meltdowns in front of the in-laws or the jealous rage just after Santa has delivered the presents? Here are a few tips!
- Tire them out! There is nothing worse than your toddler waking at 4am on Christmas morning, shouting from his bed, "Daddy, has Santa been yet?" So, make sure that on Christmas Eve you tire the kids out. Dress up warmly and go for a long walk; play some games in the park. What ever you do, just don't have a lazy day at home or they'll be up really, really early!
- Sleep time. Don't forget to try and keep to your children's normal routine, including naps and mealtimes, in order to keep their Christmas running smoothly. Don't give in to relative's pleas of keeping them up late or foregoing a nap. Stand firm and say no! Otherwise, they'll be over run with excitement and will collapse with the lack of routine and it could spoil Christmas for everyone. Keep things as "normal" as possible!
- Sweets on Christmas morning. If your children get a pile of chocolate and sweets make it clear that they can eat them, but that there are rules! Chocolate and sweets should be rationed over time and eaten later in the day. They'll last longer and you won't suffer a crazy sugar surge before breakfast that could put you all in a bad mood!
- Present mountain. It's great to have a pile of lovely gifts for your kids to open on Christmas morning. It's so nice to see their excited faces as they rip open wrapping paper. But, remember that your little ones don't necessarily need masses of expensive gifts from parents - especially if you have friends or family who'll be giving presents too. You can get some reasonably priced presents at cheaper shops which will be as exciting to open... but cost less!
- More pudding? Don't expect too much from your little ones during dinner. Sitting through a long chatty dinner is not going to be easy for them, so give them a normal portion of food and let them leave the table when they are done! No one will expect them to remain to make polite conversation while the adults finish-off their second helpings.