I try hard to instill proper table etiquette in my children. I try to teach them to behave and how to act in front of people and at the dinner table. Sometimes it seems as though my toddler completely forgets all these teachings and she does her own thing by playing with her food and then not finishing it. The other day she actually threw a piece of her food at me. She was sent to bed and not allowed to finish her dinner. I do not like to be that harsh. I believe there is something to learn in every situation and these situations should be turned into learning lessons. So, how do I get my toddler to cooperate and not play with her food at the table?
No I don’t move her to the floor so she can play with it there.
1. Take It Away.
We tried this method and it didn’t work how we wanted or expected it to. In order to do this, you are supposed to take the plate of food away as soon as your toddler starts playing with it and say “I see you are finished with your food”. Our problem with this is that she started screaming and kicking and hitting the table, throwing a huge fit and we had to physically remove her and put her in her room to cry it out. She didn’t even give us time to offer it back to her if she stops playing with her food.
What did work for us better when we were at the table is that an adult always had to stay at the table with her talking to her as she ate. Get her engaged in a topic she wants to talk about she’ll be talking and eating and will finish faster.
2. No Restaurant Kitchen.
What this means is that if your child doesn’t like or doesn’t want what you are fixing for dinner. Don’t ask them what they want instead. Don’t offer to make them anything different. Stay strict on her eating what you are eating and don’t offer anything else and she will soon learn to eat what you are eating with less complaining.
3. Not Hungry.
Your child may be playing with their food because they are not hungry. Ask your child if they are full. To remedy this problem, stop letting your child have so many sweets or snacks in between meals. My daughter gets her choice of fresh fruit twice between meals and that’s it. Fruit gives them the sugar they crave but is also healthy for them. However I do not let her eat anything for an hour before dinner is ready. Not even a drink from her Sippy cup.
Here are some ways that you can work with your toddler when you’re not at the table.
4. Make it fun to learn about eating.
Pretend to have dinners with your toddler, showing them what you’re supposed to do and asking them to do the same thing you do.
5. Teach them about the food.
Take your child to a local farmers market or even garden or orchard. Have your child pick their own food for the meals today. Help your child ask questions to learn about the food they are choosing. You will learn fun facts that you might not have know, such as that pumpkins float! Once your child starts learning about the food that goes on his/her plate she will have more respect for it even though she is too young to understand respect.6. Distraction.
If your child still plays with their food, try to distract them. Do something silly, turn the TV on and let them watch their favorite show (bad unhealthy habit but I bet it will work just like it works for my kids)
For more tips on this topic visit BabyCenter.com
And, of course, remember that this behavioral change will not occur over night. You will have to keep working with your child until they fully understand what is allowable and what is not.