Even with a good restraint like the Yochi Yochi harness, it can be a challenge to get your little one to hold still long enough to get through the meal. Here are some tips to make your life and theirs easier:
– Eat at a reasonable hour. The longer you wait to start dinner, the more restless your little one will be – most children can’t wait until 7 PM to eat!
– Start a predictable meal routine. The pattern will help your little one remember meals are a time to sit still.
– Have the right seat at the right table for your child. Whether it’s a high chair, a seat restraint like the Yochi Yochi, or finally allowing them to graduate to a Big Kid Chair, letting them feel like part of the meal will help your toddler sit still long enough to eat it.
– Be firm and consistent. You and any other caregivers helping to feed your toddler need to know the mealtime plan and stick to it – every time, no exceptions.
– Make sure your child is hungry! Don’t allow them any snacks for at least two hours before meals.
– Keep meals short. Most toddlers aren’t ready to sit through a longer dinner like older kids can.
– Teach by example. Have the whole family sit at the table for meals, without distractions – no phones, no TV, no computers, no newspapers or magazines.
– If you’re changing from a high chairto a harness like the Yochi Yochi, or from a harness to a plain chair, make a big deal about it! Your toddler will be excited to start using a “big kid’s chair.”
– Variety is the spice of life. Try to serve at least two foods you know your child likes along with one new one. If they don’t like the new choice, then they can still have something healthy.
– Don’t be a short-order cook! Prepare a meal with some things your little one will like, but don’t fall into the habit of making something different every time they don’t like what you’ve already made. The more you get up, the more your child will learn they can get up.
– Teach your child some sign language for meals – easy ways to signal that they’re full, or that they’d like more food or something to drink. This will help them feel like they have some control over the meal.
– Let your little one serve themselves. Children who serve themselves are more likely to eat what they take, and feel more independent for being able to do it alone.
– Set a timer for the length of the meal. That way, your toddler can easily see how long they have before they can get up again.
– If your child’s old enough, light a candle and let them blow it out at the end of the meal. This is another great visual cue to keep them in their seat.
– Don’t be afraid of messy eating! Toddlers naturally want to touch everything and see how it feels in their hands – a little careful playing with their food isn’t going to hurt anyone.
– If your child complains about tummy problems, or that food doesn’t smell or taste good, listen to them. Talk to your pediatrician if you’re worried there’s a bigger problem.
– When your little one says they’re full, listen and stop trying to get in “a few more bites.” That will only frustrate everyone.
– DON’T make your child clean their plate! When you’re full, you’re full; it’s the same for kids, too.
– Come up with a reward for sitting through the meal – praise, stickers, that sort of thing. Desserts or candy aren’t good rewards for meal-based behavior.