Lockdown was never going to be easy, particularly for parents of young children. It’s hard enough keeping children entertained, exercised, dealing with changes in sleep, tantrums, arguments – and that’s in normal times….

But what should you do if lockdown is making mealtimes even more challenging? OFSTED has also recognised the impact of lockdown and the significance of it it has been shared across a wide range of media outlets (but for ease you can read highlights here)  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-54880403 .

Young children have forgotten how to use a knife and fork

Basically it says that ‘The pandemic has seen most children in England slipping back with their learning – and some have gone significantly back with their social skills. A report from the education watchdog warns some young children have forgotten how to use a knife and fork or have regressed to nappies.’ The contents of the report is not something any of us will be particularly surprised about given the changes lockdown made to everyday life, but it is shocking that it has happened at all. And this kind of report is obviously concerning.

The impact of the pandemic on children at mealtimes

Peer to peer interaction is something that many children will have missed out on over the past year. Where children would have sat down at mealtimes together with their peers and had the opportunity to copy and learn, they have missed out. Where they would have sat as a social group and started to develop the key social skills we all need as we grow up, they have missed out. Practice makes perfect so they say, and missing some of the key opportunities to do this will no doubt have an impact and that’s certainly something that lockdown has forced upon us.

So what can we do about it?

At doddl, we specialise in helping children learn to eat with cutlery – so that’s the part we’re most familiar with. And if lockdown is making mealtimes more challenging, don’t despair.

Make mealtimes a social occasion

Recreate (as best you can) the peer to peer experience at mealtimes. Even if you only have one child – or children of varying ages, try and sit down together as a family to eat your meals. Move baby or toddler from a standalone high chair to the table (even if they are still sitting in the high chair) so they can see everyone eating together.

Variety is the spice of life

Make different types of foods. At school or nursery their foods will taste different to your normal home cooked meals. Try and give your child a range of food that they would get at nursery or at school – recreate whatever you can to enable them to taste different types of foods.

Make it easy

Make it as easy for them to eat with cutlery (that’s where doddl comes in). The reality is that the ‘cutlery struggle’ has a significant impact on a child’s ability to enjoy their food, and their mealtimes, limiting the social benefits of eating with their family (or peers) at the dinner table. That’s precisely why we invented cutlery to help children eat more easily because, with standard cutlery, it isn’t easy at the best of times.

Have fun!

Get some fun back into mealtimes, so it doesn’t become a battle – ask your child to colour in placemats or write name places for dinner time and get them involved in laying the table (no matter how they chaotically they do it..!)

Get involved

Get your little one involved in cooking and preparing the food – if you’re too busy (or exhausted) in the evening, maybe do an afternoon of batch cooking with them – if they see what goes in to their dinner, and they are involved in making it they will be more likely to sit down and eat it. The doddl knife can help here too, because it will help your little one safely chop to their heart’s content!

Hopefully doing all, or some, of the above might recreate at least some of the opportunities your little one has missed during lockdown and will help turn mealtimes in to an adventure for little hungry minds 😍

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