When I began to wean my son, I didn’t mash any of his foods on the sieve or blend the potatoes or the fruits. I had an older nanny who told me the habit will work against me much later. I don’t know why I wasn’t paranoid then. So we crushed his foods with a fork or spoon and fed him of it. It turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice ever. Mums always want the best for their children and will rather spoon feed them instead of focusing on cultivating good feeding habits. I remember cutting through the banana peel and crushing the banana with my finger and feed by scooping through. By 9 months Jabali had at least 12 teeth (bottom and top) and could comfortably hold his banana and have a go at it. At the same age he began eating ugali, sweet potatoes, ‘githeri’, rice and chapati soaked in soup. Your growing child may not decide what’s for lunch or supper but you can steer a toddler toward eating ‘anything’ healthy. Kids won’t starve, but they will learn to be more flexible rather than go hungry so as a mum, you might have to do it craftily.
Here are some tips I tried and worked for me and might also work for you:
- Present a variety of healthy foods — including established favorites and some new foods — to make up the menu. Most mums will bore their toddler with pumpkin and mashed potatoes as part of their everyday menu. Worse still when millet porridge is added to the mix.
Try new ideas such as spinach, mincemeat, liver, eggs, lentils, green bananas, sweet potatoes, arrow roots or even ugali. Change is good for them. And yes those foods cannot affect them unless you notice signs of an allergy.
- Set a good example by serving nutritious foods and let your child see you enjoy it.
If you say in front of your child you can’t eat ugali don’t expect them to.
- Don’t bribe, threaten with punishment or negotiate.
You would rather ask them to try a bite than say ‘finish I’ll give you a biscuit or buy you a present.’
- Look for opportunities where they can eat healthy with a friend.
You can serve food and have the neighbor’s son or cousin join in. Trust me the competition for whose no.1 will do a lot of good.
- Let your child play with food by touching or experiment by feeding themselves. I know – it’s messy but that’s part of the process.
When they feel more in control, it helps them form their feeding style. Don’t always push the nanny to do the feeding especially from 11/2 years onward.
- Feed when hungry. I know most mums have strict times and patterns set for their nannies.
This means the nanny is left forcing food down their throats and sometimes your baby or toddler may not feel like porridge at 10 in the morning but a fruit.
- Don’t fall for the junk trap of “I want chips or juice” all the time. Kids never go to the supermarket to buy them but you do.
Simply say no and offer alternative choices for them to choose from. For example instead of bottled juice, you can blend a fruit or make healthier queen cakes at home.
- A little bit of fat, salt, margarine and sugar in their foods, porridge or juices won’t hurt either. Their taste buds are alive just as an adult’s.
Now that he’s grown (4 years) we set the table and eat together. He’s got his little seat by the table where we start with a word of prayer. It’s also interesting how I get to teach him a little bit of table manners in the process like no talking with food in the mouth. Different experiences? Please share.