When my son Ishaan was 1 year old, he tried everything from my plate. Watching him eat was pure joy.. And I used to pat my own back for doing a good job at parenting.
But as he turned about 16 months old, suddenly started to make choices, to reject most of the foods that I made. By 18 months meal times were no longer fun. Distraction feeding was the only thing that worked and every meal lasted for about 60 minutes on an average. And even after that I was not a satisfied mom as Ishaan did not eat his veggies!
These struggles made me read a lot about children, their eating habits and nutritional needs. I started trying some new tricks everyday. And my biggest learning was that making meals more enjoyable is the ONLY way out.
I made it a point to take Ishaan along on our weekly grocery shopping, to let him choose the fruits and veggies and to put them in ‘his basket’. He enjoyed that process mainly because he could help in the billing as well and get a big smile and pat on the back from the shopkeeper!
He then slowly progressed to being my ‘little helper’ in the kitchen. His favourite task was to set yogurt every evening. All he did was put a dollop of yogurt in the warm milk and stir it saying ‘Aaabra ka Dabra’. He then covered it and went to bed. The next morning, even before brushing his teeth, he used to rush to the kitchen to see if ‘Magic’ had happened – if his yogurt was set!
Slowly I was realizing that though his eating habits were not drastically improving, he was at least not running away from food or throwing too many tantrums. That in itself was a small win for me.
Picnic meals, eating with friends (sometimes real, sometimes imaginary☺) we did several experiments. But the most effective one was family meals. Everyday for dinner we all sat together to eat and Ishaan started noticing so many small things on the dinner table. We had fun conversations like ‘Vegetables are not grown in the supermarkets’ ‘why do lemons taste sour’ and loads of reasoning as to why he cant eat fast!!
All these experiences made me realize that having a picky eater at home and inculcating the right eating habits in him is like an ultra marathon. We have to be at it and celebrate every mile completed.. After all it’s a journey and we can make it enjoyable.
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