Many people are finding this lockdown especially difficult. Darker days, wintry weather and spending more time inside 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? A report from OFSTED last year recognised the problem and the extent of its impact on children of all ages.
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.
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..!)
Help your little one to be 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 😍