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Every child is different, and no two kids are the same; thus, everyone requires other techniques to teach and learn. However, some basic things are more or less the same for all. Do try them at the early stage, and there’s the possibility that our job as a mother becomes a little less troublesome. One such habit is of eating. As a mother of four years old, I learnt them hands-on and still learning.
1. Make them understand – We label children as innocent with no sense, but in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Just making them understand the importance of food can make our task relatively easy. I can give an example which I usually follow with my child; it’s about “a mouse eating our tummy off if we don’t feed it food at the right time . With the help of food, we can drive it away and keep us healthy and get the energy to do work”. I also add that “God will become sad if we waste food (vegetables) prepared by him”. This made him think a bit as he was not ready to make anyone sad.
2. Avoid binge eating – Avoid binge eating regularly. This will help them eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on time and subsequently help them to regularise their eating habits. Also, avoid giving them sauces/ colas or sweet drinks – they kill their appetite.
3. Dinner time – A family get-together- All the members should sit simultaneously while having breakfast/lunch/dinner. It enhances bonding and teaches table manners, helping with dishes, spoons, table mats, etc. They are not aliens or guests that require separate timing for lunch/dinner unless and until lunch/dinner is served at exceptionally odd hours.
4. No screen time while eating – Showing mobiles / TV during eating has become common today. Grandparents/parents, who are given responsibility, often mistake showing videos/animations / TV? Why not tell them a story/ rhyme? We tend to think of them as kids with “no ear” for songs /rhymes/stories, but it is the foundation of learning & speaking. Some will respond immediately, and some will have a slow response, but giving them the option of “Idiot Box” will eventually ruin their future. My son started talking a little later, around two years, not because he was given screen time; it was owing to the fact that, except for myself, no one cared to talk to him. They were waiting for him to speak ( irrational expectation). Then again, we can’t argue with everyone.
5. Usage of cutlery – Although we are in the habit of eating with our hands, using cutlery like spoons should be encouraged with kids to teach hygiene and table manners. Some use both hands (fish/chicken/eggs) while eating, which shouldn’t be allowed. Using primary hand and spoon helps to place themselves equal with older kids/elders of the family. However, the usage of forks requires guidance as they can hurt themselves.
6. Encouraging them to eat independently – Stop helping once they cross the two years mark. Be it roti/chapati/papad, ask them to eat independently. They’ll love their newly obtained responsibility. If given with a spoon, fruits such as papaya, mango, and apple can easily be savoured by the kids. Also, ask them to chew and not swallow. Chewing helps in relishing the taste & flavour of the food and also helps in digestion.
7. Learning while eating – We can also teach them while they eat by pointing out the fruits & vegetables with their names, colours, and size. Those who have learnt alphabets and phonics can easily recognise the letters if we point out the names. Thus it becomes fun for them, and mommies can easily make up for the quality time with the added advantage of learning.
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