For a lot of us, each holiday season is packed with mixed emotions. There is excitement for new traditions, pictures, gifts and the weather. But there are also stress-inducing lines, returns, travel and the inevitable mealtime confrontations. Here are a few holiday tips for toddlers.
Make a holiday mealtime plan: If your toddler has some finicky habits, educate your family about the difficulties your toddler may experience (not in front of the toddler, of course) eating in a new environment. If possible, make these plans over the phone to avoid uncomfortable interactions with your family at the dining table. Having an open and frank discussion may ease your tension and help to establish a trusting and safe environment for your hesitant eater. Here are a few ideas to help support your child this holiday:
- Try eating a snack with just the two of you and not the extended family
- I encourage all my feeding therapy clients to stay on their time zone for mealtime; this allows you toddler to listen to their ‘full’ and ‘hungry’ feeding cues. This will help if you are potty training too!
- Try incorporating a special holiday activity before a meal to help decrease the anxiety they may feel. We have several table-time ideas to choose from, such as paper crafts, food crafts, family night ideas and food activities!
Sensory and stocking stuffers: Support your child’s sensory needs by bringing your toddler’s favorite items (books, stuffed animals, hand fidgets like our Micro Mat, games, etc.) to the table. This will help them feel relaxed and secure before and after these unpredictable holiday meals. For kids who have sensory-based feeding issues this tip will make their holiday merry and bright (with fewer meltdowns too!).
Language to handle the Scrooges: When it comes to feeding instructions and mealtime rules, the regulation, correction and praise needs to come from mom and dad (not from well meaning relatives). I encourage parents to educate in-laws and other family members about the language we use at mealtime. Explain to them that our words can encourage or discourage kids to try a bite of a new food. They can also increase or decrease the likelihood they will eat with them again. So, have your script prepared in advance on how to respectfully inform your family about the preparation and language used to make mealtime successful. Here are a few examples:
- “Johnny has a hard time with the unfamiliarity of mealtime in different places, so we use the Happy Mat to help make meals consistent for him.”
- “We do not force her to eat, but we do encourage her to try new foods.”
- “We like to offer him a variety of foods, even if he does not eat all of them.”
We talk more about language use in our book Making Mealtime ezpz and provide additional examples on how to use encouraging expressions to help kids become more adventurous eaters. What is your go-to language for explaining your child’s eating habits? What are your tips to help toddlers eat consistently throughout the holiday break? #ezpzfun #ezpzbook
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz