Encouraging toddler independence with food

…written by Up All Hours

  1. #weaning
  2. #toddler
  3. #food

Research by Organix found that nearly half (46%) of mums think their toddler is a fussy eater, but according to clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin, the chances are they’re actually just becoming more independent, rather than fussy!

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The toddler years are a time when little ones want to start taking charge, and it’s a crucial stage in their development. For parents that can be hard, and especially when it comes to food, as mum tries to do her job of feeding her little one well, and her toddler is doing their job of showing they have their own opinions.

Independant eater

To give your little one lots of variety and the chance to choose for themselves, mixed bags are a great idea. They can be a changing bag must-have when out and about and little ones get peckish – just the thing to stave off a 'hangry' meltdown, and ensure they’ll still have room for lunch or tea!

Organix asks clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin for advice celebrating toddler independence

Spotting the signs of toddler independence, 3 tell-tale signs

1. No: Toddlers can quickly learn the word ‘no’. For the first time they can vocalise their views and will enjoy rehearsing this throughout the day!

2. Body language: Toddlers also talk with their bodies - turn their head away, go rigid, run away - all ways of letting you know they don’t agree with what’s happening or like a certain food today.

3. Sensitive: Just as their need for independence grows, so does their sensitivity and they can get upset very easily. A meltdown, even over their favourite snack food, is just part of a developmental phase and nothing to get too concerned about.

7 ways to encourage your toddler’s growing independence

1. No: Learn when your toddler is saying no and meaning it and when they’re saying no for the sake of it. For example, when tired or hungry they could say no to everything!

2. Talking: Talk to your toddler to help their language skills. For example, tell them what’s for tea, and the different foods on their plate.

3. Choices: Giving toddlers choices teaches the important skill of compromise, and helps them feel informed and able to assert their independence. Use the “Two Choices” approach. For example, at tea time tell your toddler they have two choices, they can either have carrots or broccoli, or at snack time Goodies breadsticks or a mini oaty bite – which one would they prefer?

4. Explore: Allow them to explore appropriate independence – such as a blunt knife to cut up food, a spoon to put food on their plate, making a fun food face using Goodies snacks, and remember it’s ok if it gets a little messy!

5. How much to eat? Talk to your toddler about the importance of eating a good amount of food, ask them how many mouthfuls they think they could eat. You can negotiate around this, but often what they say will be a true indication of how much they want.

6. Illogical: The path to independence rarely runs smoothly or logically – so true when it comes to food. What your toddler may love one day can be refused the next! Don’t give up, chances are even if they have rejected it they may well change their minds again!

7. Doing it themselves: In the toddler years, children naturally want to learn, explore and do things by themselves. Food is a great opportunity to encourage their growing independence – whether a grow-your-own vegetable pot or helping with the shopping.

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