Allow Children to explore their Food during Weaning by Pocket Nannies
Why is it important to allow children to explore their food during weaning? Weaning, whether you choose to do baby led or puréeing, should be a messy process and whilst that sadly means you have extra mess to tidy up at the end of mealtimes, it is actually a huge learning process for your baby. Weaning should be a full on sensory experience, which means not just smell and taste are satisfied. If your baby is doing well with puréed food that’s fab, but why not try placing a few steamed or roasted vegetables onto their highchair and see if they might like to suck or chew on these in between mouthfuls of purée. Children who are allowed to explore their food through exploration (touching it, squishing it and putting it to their own mouths to taste) become more familiar with the food in question and are less likely to become unsure of it as they become toddlers, who are naturally wary of new foods. Apparently this is a survival technique handed down from our ancestors to avoid us eating poisonous foods back in the day. Helpful then but not so much now! We must bear in mind that weaning is a marathon not a sprint. Your baby may touch, squish and generally make a huge mess, aka throw it all on the floor, cause isn’t that the funnest game! and not put the food in their mouth but that is ok. Further down the line you will probably find if you keep offering it they may decide to try it and decide they do in fact like it. Remember to offer a wide selection of tastes for baby to try and let’s not forget babies tend to like strong flavours so don’t be afraid to add herbs and mild spices like cinnamon. If you’re not fond of a certain food that doesn’t mean your baby’s not going to like it. This is the time for your baby to try, try and try again. Weaning is not the time for teaching table manners, its time to cultivate a love of food and mealtimes. Its great to introduce spoons for a baby to attempt to feed themselves but remember not to worry if more often than not they use their hands. Making sure your child is always sat upright in a highchair is the safest way to wean. Try not to offer your child food when they aren’t in their highchair as this can increase the chance of them chocking on their food and can also become a bad habit that will lead to you following them around the room with their dinner. A huge array of learning takes place during mealtimes when weaning and no not just the adult learning that a tiny human can make the biggest of messes! Babies learn hand eye coordination when they practice bringing the food to their mouths, they strengthen their fine motor skills by managing to pick the food up with their fingers. For example perfecting their pincer grip whilst learning to pick up peas/sweetcorn with their fingers. They learn about different textures and temperatures ( FYI cold fruits and vegetables can be soothing on sore gums). Babies also learn and imitate social skills, which is why we would recommend eating with your baby if possible, even if it’s just a floret or 2 of broccoli to encourage him/her to do the same. Weaning can and should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both baby and carer and it can also be a wonderful bonding experience. Lots of eye contact happens at the table and lots of new vocabulary will be heard by baby. Things to help you survive the mealtime mess:
- Plastic mat to place under the highchair (an old plastic tablecloth works well)
- Flannels (saves you having to take out shares in wipes and also helps the environment a little too. Just wash your flannel under the hot tap after each meal and pop in the wash pile at the end of the day)
- Decent bibs, ideally ones with arms or better yet if it’s warm enough take off their tops for meals.
- Hand held hoover/dust pan & brush or failing that a dog works just as well!