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Making mealtime manageable

“My child wouldn’t sit still throughout meal time.”

“He can never finish his food. He ends up playing or wasting them.”

“He always want me to feed him and refuses to use fork and spoon by his own.”

“He spills his food outside of the bowl and the dining area looks like a war zone after each meal.”

Does this sound familiar to you?

Managing mealtime with your little ones can be stressful, especially when you are already physically and mentally drained after a full day of hectic work.

Mealtime is more than just consuming food as it also promotes social participation and communication with your loved ones when you share your stories of the day. In order to be promote independence during mealtime, it also involves the skills below:

  • Fine motor skills - able to hold the fork and spoon with two hands and to orientate them.

  • Visual perceptual skills - accurately poke a piece of nugget from the plate and bring it to the mouth.

  • Sensory integration - able to process the taste, touch, smell, sight of the different dishes presented on the table.

  • Gross motor skills - able to maintain upright posture throughout mealtime.

What can we do to make mealtime less stressful and more enjoyable? Here are some of the tips you may consider.

1. Create an opportunity to eat together with your child by establishing regular mealtime at the dining table.

  • This helps to set the body clock where your child will feel hungry around the same time of the day if meals are always around the same timing too.

  • Monkeys see, monkeys do. Having mealtime together also exposes your child to different food as they see others trying out new food. Though the child may not try the new food when you first introduce it to them, they are more likely to try it after a few rounds of exposure.

2. Analyze possible underlying factors which could be affecting the child’s ability to participate in mealtime (e.g. sensory issues, hand eye coordination). This then requires further intervention to improve the specific skills.

3. Modify mealtime by using

  • Alternative cutlery. Enlarge the fork or spoon handle for easier gripping.

Even if your child is only using a spoon to eat, it is important to remind him/her to use the other hand to hold or stabilize the plate containing the food.

  • Adjusting food portions. It is okay to provide smaller food portions to your child as this minimizes food wastage, at the same time encourages your child to ask from you if they want to have more.

Lastly, you may involve your child in simple meal preparation or to shop for the food ingredients together. As this gives them a sense of control and increases their self-confidence on what they are capable of, it will further motivate them to try the food they prepare by themselves.

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