Introducing solids is both an exciting and terrifying milestone. I absolutely loved introducing new flavours and textures to Axl’s diet and always had a good giggle at his expressions when he would try something too sweet or sour. However, you can’t help but worry, wondering if you’ve cut his dinner into small enough pieces or in my case, hyperventilate over the amount of mess that followed each and every meal time. We waited for Axl to turn 6-months old when we first started introducing new foods to his diet as before then milk provides all the necessary nutrients that a baby needs to grow. It’s important to note that you should not be introducing anything before 17 weeks as their gastrointestinal function has not yet fully matured.
We found the transition to solids easier than most and feel that by having the right start, we’ve been able to ensure Axl grew up with good eating habits. However, this isn’t always the case and as they grow up, toddlers can become a little more stubborn and mealtimes can be filled with anxiety. Here are a few tips on how we’ve made mealtimes, fun time!
Make Mealtimes, Family Time
Being freelancers and working American hours often meant that we weren’t all eating dinner at the same time. I noticed that Axl was always looking to see if we were eating and when I wasn’t sitting at the table next to him, he’d play around with his food. So we started making it a thing that at dinner time, despite frequently having to work, we hit pause for 20 minutes while we sit and enjoy our meal as a family. We “cheers” our glasses, chat about our day and get involved during this time. Since we’ve made this seemingly simple shift, Axl has been enjoying his food more, and actually cleans off his plate if given the time to do so.
Allow them the chance to explore
Meal time is a somewhat routine thing for us. We aren’t excited over every spoonful because we’ve been doing this 3-5 times a day for years, right? But children haven’t. They want to explore with all 5 senses: they want to see the different colours, hear the crunch, crackle and pop, feel the textures, smell and taste the flavour. Which means they’re bound to get messy, but let them! If children start sensing your hesitance, they’re going to associate mealtimes with you stressing out, therefore leading them to stress out, too. Rather encourage them to explore with their senses so that they learn to enjoy different types of food.
Let them help make dinner
Darren is usually the one who ends up making dinner as I work 6 nights of the week. Our kitchen and lounge are open planned, so Axl gets involved by oohing and ahhing from the lounge at the sounds of sizzling chicken or steaming veg. While Darren chops things up, he has Axl taste the food before getting him to throw it all into a bowl or (messily) mix the contents of tonight’s dinner together. Axl really enjoys helping cook dinner and takes great pride in the meal, which makes him even more enthusiastic to try it!
Let your children pick their own crockery and cutlery
As a mom with a slight OCD problem, I struggled to let go and allow my cutlery to no longer matchy-match. But taking Axl to the shop and showing him all the different characters, styles and colours to choose from, made him excited to go home and eat “like a big boy.” NUK have an extensive range of ergonomically designed food utensils to make mealtimes even more fun.
NUK recently launched weaning spoons that are conveniently sized for small mouths and little hands, making it easier for them to grip the spoon. This may seem like a small consideration and perhaps just a matter of chance, but through the years I have learnt that NUK offers a range that is purposefully designed with your babies and toddlers in mind. Axl has been through so many eating utensils, especially spoons, and we’ve been looking for the one that doesn’t scoop up too much yoghurt and is comfortable for him to hold. He has taken such a liking to the new weaning spoons from NUK, that when he wants a yoghurt he tells us by going to fetch one of his 5 spoons.
These tips may seem rather simple, but that’s pretty much it! As parents, we are always so quick to over complicate things. It’s time we stop overcomplicating mealtimes and start having more fun, even if it means you become a cow, aeroplane or choo-choo train to get them to open wide.