eating is such a fundamental aspect of being a person. when your relationship with food becomes complicated and unhappy, it can really drain the colour out of what should be one of the most wonderful aspects of life.
we want to help arty develop a positive attitude to food, and enjoy eating.
here's what we're doing to help him with that at this stage of his life:
model enjoyment of food
one of arty's first words was "omnomnom!" and we are so proud of that! we always talk positively about the food we're eating, and show him that we enjoy and appreciate our meals. as any parent, teacher, or psychologist will tell you, kids learn from what they see, so we're hoping that by showing him that we love good food, we can encourage him to do the same.
engage him in the preparation process
at 16 months, arty's still too little to give a lot of hands on help, but he's fascinated by what goes on in the kitchen, and we're keen to encourage that interest.
he likes to sit up in his high chair and watch while we prepare food, and we involve him by giving him different ingredients to smell, taste, and feel as we go along. he likes to say "chop! chop!" as we cut up veggies, and he imitates the sound of the pepper grinder, and it's all very cute.
we're also encouraging familiarity with 'the tools of the trade' by giving him utensils such as whisks, garlic crushers, and ladles to investigate and play with.
he's also very interested in the oven, and in bubbling pots, so we have to be very careful to keep him safe, and not let that curiosity get him into trouble!
food is not a reward or a punishment
we enjoy sweet treats for their own sake, and we don't give or withhold them as a form of behaviour management.
we don't believe that food should be assigned a moral value, and using it in this way can lead to that kind of thinking. we believe that food is a human right, not a bargaining tool.
never force feed
sometimes, arty just doesn't want to eat. and that's ok. we respect his body, and his right to decide that he's not hungry. being forced to eat when they don't want to can be traumatic for children, and cause them to develop very unhealthy attitudes to eating.
this doesn't mean we cook arty five different dinners til he finds one he feels like. if he doesn't want the meal we've made him, we offer him something very simple like weet bix, or porridge instead. if he refuses that, then we leave it, wait til the next meal, and just ensure that he has plenty to drink.
vary diet & encourage adventurousness
we do our best to give arty a varied diet, incorporating plenty of different fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and fats, as well as a range of herbs and spices.
we also encourage him to try bits of whatever we're eating (within reason - he doesn't get mouthfuls of flaming hot curry, or more than a taste of an extremely rich dessert). so far, this approach has produced a child who is willing to try almost anything, and enjoys many foods from yum cha to roast dinner.
we're hoping that all these things will help arty to enjoy eating, get excited about cooking, and stay happy and positive about food and it's relationship with his body.