Guest post By Annabel Woolmer – Cook With Tots
The latest advice on weaning babies is to allow them to feed themselves with fingers foods as soon as they show an interest. They have the chance to play and explore food, eat what they need to eat and no more, and they become familiar with food in it’s ‘normal’ state. More and more parents are fully or partially following this approach (Baby-Led Weaning) and most are happy to deal with the increased mess, because they see the benefits. All goes well until baby becomes toddler. The baby that was once happy to sit in the high-chair chomping anything going disappears. In it’s place, this unrecognisable child who flat refuses to eat anything we want appears. We have visions that they are never going to eat a vegetable for the rest of their life. Panic sets in. We start coaxing, bribing, hiding food in sauces and creating ‘happy face’ works of art in a desperate attempt to reawaken their enthusiasm for eating.
In our panic, the principals we saw work so well in weaning go out of the window: let them play & explore food, let them control what and how much they eat, and familiarise them with food as it is. One of the ways to bring these baby-led weaning principals back into mealtimes is to get them involved in preparing their own food. I don’t mean tottering on top of a stool at a hob. As enthusiastic as I am about cooking with toddlers, I’m not that crazy. There are lots of things you can safely cook with a child as young as 18 months, where they can get hands-on and feel the satisfaction of doing most of it themselves. Keeping it do-able is key: there’s no point in using cooking to get them back into exploring food and feeling in control, if you have to do most of it for them because the recipe is too hard or not safe for them to do.
Here is a fun recipe for Egg-Free Rice Balls to get you started. If your baby is 6 to 18 months, they make great, soft, easy to pick-up finger food. For 18 months and above, they are easy and fun to make with little help. Do the Adult Prep section first without them. Find a low table or base of a chair that they can stand at. And then let them have fun with food again. Ps. There will be mess, but nothing a quick sweep and wipe won’t fix. Just as in baby-led weaning, worry about it after. Happy Cooking!
Annabel Woolmer is the author of the Tickle Fingers Cookbook: recipes & tips for cooking with a toddler and runs the Cook with Toddlers Community; a project to promote and share resources for cooking with children aged 1 to 4. Go to www.cookwithtoddlers.com for recipes, tips & where to buy products for toddler-chefs. Go to www.facebook.com/