Make it Fun to Munch Christmas Lunch
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Christmas is nearly upon us, and with all the presents, the tree and the carols comes one of the biggest and most pressurised meals of the year. Whether you’ve cooked it yourself or whether you’re all out at someone’s house – each scenario can bring its own pressures when it comes to your little one’s eating.
We’ve put together some tips to help you get through Christmas lunch with minimum drama.
1. Notice how things are different for your little one.
Your child is likely to be having an unfamiliar experience, so think about how things look to them:
- This might be your child’s first Christmas lunch. Even if it isn’t, it’s unlikely to be the kind of meal or the kind of social experience they have every day.
- You might not be sitting at your familiar table in your own home.
- There will be lots of sparkly or metallic, colourful things on the table that aren’t usually there; e.g. Christmas crackers, paper hats.
- The meal will last longer than usual and there will be lots of distractions and diversions from food and eating.
- There are probably many more people around the table than usual.
- You may not have as much time to devote to them, one to one, as usual at mealtimes.
- Tastes, textures, smells, colours are all likely to be unfamiliar.
- Don’t be surprised if your child behaves differently to their usual mealtime behaviour.
All the factors above, to name but a few, mean that your little one has a lot more distractions around than usual. Imagine how they might be feeling and how they will need you to respond to this need. For example, they might feel confused or overwhelmed by all the foods, colours and sounds happening at the table. They might feel insecure because their environment is different or your attention is elsewhere more.
This means that they might be more clingy or less willing to eat than usual. Not eating is often simply a way to say: “Notice me! I need attention!” If you expect this as a possibility and know that it means your little one needs love and reassurance, it will help you to feel less stressed about it when it happens and to respond appropriately.
- Keep your behaviour the same as usual.
Become aware of how you might be tempted to behave differently in response to anxiety about what other people think, or what other people’s children are or aren’t eating:
- Don’t suddenly start doing something you’d never usually do, like spoon-feeding.
- Don’t let well-meaning friends/relatives take over.
- Make sure you keep the same rules and boundaries that you usually do, but give lots of reassurance if your little one gets upset or frustrated. Give them lots of love, but don’t move the goalposts or start bribing them with pudding, or anything else, just to stop them crying or having a tantrum.
- Explain to the others at the table that things are likely to get messy, if they don’t already know that. Think about which foods you can give that minimise mess.
- Use the opportunity to help your little one discover something new.
- Bring something with you that you know they like, to add that ‘safety blanket’ of a familiar food. You can then use this to introduce a new food.
- What is your child doing in their play? Are they wrapping/hiding things? If so, then wrap something new in a slice of turkey(if this is familiar, for example) with them. Are they enjoying putting things in cups? Then pop a few brussels-sprouts in a cup.
- Give them closed A/B choices: e.g. Would you like turkey or chicken? The amount of food choices on the table can be overwhelming.
- Don’t put too many different foods on their plate – this can also be overwhelming.
- Don’t expect too much. If they try one or two new things, that’s fantastic!
- Give them space to explore and don’t make a big deal of things.
Your child’s need to be socially included is significant. Help them to try new things by modelling and letting them see you all enjoying something and having it within their reach, without pressurising them to try it.
- Many mums find that their toddlers will reach for something completely new at family gatherings, where lots of food is around but there’s no pressure to eat.
- If this happens, ignore it. Let them discover what they’ve picked up without a spotlight on them.
- Many people recommend praising your child when they eat something, but at Yummy Discoveries we don’t believe in this, for various reasons. Firstly, your child is likely to become self-conscious, if all eyes turn to them, just when they’re tentatively reaching for something new. They might then suddenly refuse to eat any more. Secondly, you’re setting that food up as something you reallywant them to eat, which makes it into a big deal – this can backfire. Thirdly, You really don’t want the food itself to be a big deal. It’s eating and enjoying a meal together that’s important.
So Christmas lunch can be a great opportunity for your little one to experience new things, if you work with your child and expect a few hiccups because of how unfamiliar everything is. Don’t worry about what other people think of what your child eats – you know that they’re well-nourished.
If you relax and work with them, you never know, your child just might surprise you!
|Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net|
We like to set our little ones a good example and encourage sharing. We don't mind you using any of the information, recipes and tips on our website or blog, all we ask is that you credit us hard-working mummies here at Yummy Discoveries.
Thank you x