Does your child demand TV or IPad while eating? Do you struggle with that long lasting first bite resting in that little mouth for ages? Has meal time at your home become equivalent to TV time?
For many parents, especially first-time parents, feeding their child is a bit overwhelming. Things are quite simple when they are babies, right? Feed, burp, repeat.
But the real challenge starts when it comes to feeding solids. I am not talking about how to start with semi solids/regular food. That I have already covered in : “Getting Started with First Food for the Baby”. It’s all the other things that come along this transition – the hows and whens.
I have seen kids watching TV in trance while eating. Said kids seem to have NO idea what or how much they are eating.They watch their cartoons and shovel it in.
But how did it all start? Pause. Rewind.
You – Place the baby in high chair and give the first bite
Child – Opens the mouth and in a fraction of second twists his tongue in such a way that the first bite is all over the place
You – Try and give another bite
Child – Shrugs , turns, tries to topple out of the high chair
You – (switch on the TV) Hey look…Little Lola is munching carrots! And Chota Bheem is gobbling laddoos ! ( and scoop in a bite in that mouth which was actually opened for laughing out loud by the baby!)
Looking for ways to keep the little one engaged? Click here
I know… that’s the easiest way perhaps when we moms want to satisfy ourselves that the child has been fed and is full. And I am guilty of having resorted to this medium myself.
Having given up on my patience and stamina in running around or force feeding the kids, one fine day I handed over this responsibility in entertaining & perhaps more energetic hands of Baby TV!
But you know the downside – your child will not only associate meal time with TV viewing but also would never be able to gauge his own hunger cues leading to over or under eating.
That is when I realised this to be a Red Alert situation and started working on getting rid of this habit. However it baffled me that while several researches, studies and experts give warnings and criticisms of combining TV with meal time, nobody offers parents viable alternatives to using screen time to distract the child.
So here I am sharing Top Tips to get your Child off TV while Eating which I devised over a period of few weeks and worked successfully in our home.
Be a Supermodel
Making the rule of no-eating-while-watching TV and making sure you the parent follow it too – is a smart move. Certainly, peer pressure has an influence on our kids’ TV watching habits. But ultimately, as with everything else, children are most affected by the example we parents set.
Where are you feeding?
Having a designated place for meals and snacks (like the kitchen or dining table) will decrease the likelihood that your kids will associate eating with such a sedentary activity. Think of placing the high chair in dining area or kitchen area where the child can eat and look around while you finish rest of the cooking- top it up with having food related games like color of fruits, Spot-the-object in the kitchen etc
Also read “8 Must Have Baby Feeding Essentials”
Make TV viewing inconvenient
Ensure there is no TV in the bedroom or kids’ room. There’s something addictive about comfy bed, binge munching and binge watching! Occasionally make TV viewing difficult.This works great for children above 18 months who understand the concept of remote control, electricity/power failure etc.
Teddy- the friend
What better than a comforting dependable companion for whom the child is in-charge. Teddy can be a foil, a taster and a meal time pal.
Picnic on the rug
Add some fun element by eating together while sitting on a mat or rug. How about a make-belief picnic? Think of more such Pretend-Play activities.
Play with Food
Place finger food in front of the child. Kids love picking up,mushing, squashing, sucking etc. Each day place a different fruit or vegetable – let the child touch it; speak about its colour, its importance etc.
It’s the visual effect that captures the child’s attention while watching TV. A substitute to that is action songs. This helps make the child a good listener and more creative.
Sing along/Play Music
This worked the best in my case – instead of switching on the TV, I would sing the same rhymes, narrate the same cartoon programmes in the same sequence. It wasn’t very difficult to grab my kids’ attention as they would concentrate on taking a bite and visualising the rhymes/cartoons in their minds. It might get a bit exhausting for you though! Worry not- just play some music while feeding the little one. It’s an ultimate soother for the fussy eater!
Get into a Conversation
Engaging the baby in a conversation, narrating any funny incident to the little one or just acting goofy works great too.
Reading or placing a book in front of the baby. Books that talk about food like The very Hungry Caterpillar work great here.
Also Read “8 Must have Books for 1 year old baby”
Suction toys or handy Puzzles are a better alternative to TV. Ofcourse it’s not a great idea to make the child get distracted in these things while eating, but as I said these are certainly better than only watching and getting lost in colourful, and often noisy, cartoons.
Also read “5 Must have toys for Infants”
Eat with the baby
Children find it amusing watching adults eat. Plus that acts as an important bonding time for family. Ofcourse this can’t be done all the time everyday, but can be done for 1 meal in a day or over the weekends.
It might not seem too bad an idea as of now to let the child watch TV while eating, but as the child grows up this practice would have spill-over effects like mindless eating, lesser involvement in family-time during meals, sedentary lifestyle et al.
To start with, once you start feeding the baby don’t switch on the TV immediately. Using above mentioned tips you might just get through half of the meal before the child gets fussy. Eventually you will be able to get through the whole of it. Just try it!