Want to have a blast with your child while you feed her mind and tummy? Then abandon mealtime rules (for now) and turn high-chair time into a growth fest.
There’s a lot little ones learn when they consume their meals—and discovering all the good tastes, colors, shapes, sizes, and smells is a big part of the process.See Also: Got a Picky Eater?
Of course, this doesn’t mean that mealtime should always incorporate play or learning. Pay attention to his cues: If he’s bright, alert, and curious, go for it; if he’s cranky, tired, or overly hungry, reschedule the adventure for later. Eating—and learning—should be fun, not overwhelming.
Where to start
- Name the colors. Once you’ve introduced an assortment of foods, arrange her food on an unbreakable plate by color. Try a handful of chopped red strawberries, a sprinkling of baked and cubed orange sweet potatoes, and a dollop or two of mashed green broccoli. Name the color of the food as you feed her.
- Organize food by shape and size. Serve semicircles of steamed baby carrots or ripe banana, tiny cubes of tofu or cheese, or naturally spherical blueberries and peas. True, your tot may not be ready for geometry just yet, but trust us, he’s absorbing more info than you realize.
- Let her finger-paint the meal away. Rather than spoon out small portions of yogurt or mashed food, let your child try to feed herself at mealtime. We promise you lots of messy, giggly fun. But save this idea for a day when you have time to practically hose down both the high chair and toddler. She’ll love the way the squishy food feels in her hands, and the beautiful way it smears across the tray. She might even get in a few bites while she’s playing.
- Get a grip on the action. Letting your child eat with his fingers is key to his small motor development. So, serve up soft foods that encourage a pincer grasp—think small soft pieces of pasta; tiny cubes of cheese; and chopped up steamed veggies or berries, sliced bananas, or mango. If the fruit is too slippery for your child to handle, coat it with cereal dust to give it more grip.
- Count out loud slowly. Grab small pieces of dry cereal and create several small stacks on the tabletop. Then count out loud how many individual pieces are in each. Introduce your tot to the concept of big, small, more, less, and all gone!
- Make patterns with pancakes. The next time you whip up a batch of pancakes, drop in blueberries and banana slices in an alternating pattern. Show your tot what a pretty pattern that makes. It may still be too early for little ones to understand that concept, but it’s a fun way to play with your pint-size foodie.