When we are approaching anything in life I think it is so valuable to step back and look at it not only holistically but from a primal perspective as well. When we can recognise our bodies as primal bodies, our brains as primal brains and our babies and children as primal beings I think we get a greater understanding of a lot of things.
It wasn’t too long ago (a mere 10,000 years ago) that we were hunter-gatherers. And for thousands of years our human instincts, including how we learn, were formed at this time. Our bodies and brains don’t just forget these instincts because we have the newest smartphone in our back pockets.
Primally children had to learn an enormous amount to survive and they taught themselves through observation, play and exploration. Children would observe adult activities (hunting and gathering) and would incorporate these activities into their play. Play is a tool that children use to explore and build their understanding of the world around them. And it was through this play that children would become skilled at activities and as they would grow older their play gradually developed into the real thing.
So what does this have to do with parenting in 2020 when the only hunting and gathering we are doing is down the isles of the supermarket?
This is where the significance of family meals come in. This allows our children to not only mimic our behaviour but also observe us social modeling mealtimes and a positive relationship with food. Studies show that eating a meal with your child three times a week (as a minimum) will provide tools for your child to navigate meal times and it will affect their overall health, wellbeing and development long term.
It is also important to make sure we establish a safe, predictable and relaxed environment at dinner time. Primally children would not eat until they were free from threats. If we’re putting too much pressure on our little ones at dinner time it will trigger their adrenal glands which will inevitably lower their appetite as well as having a negative impact on their overall health and wellbeing.
It is your responsibility as a parent to provide your child with food but it is ultimately the child’s responsibility to eat it.
It is also important to keep in mind that children thrive on predictability and routine; psychologically it makes them feel safe. Children also best learn new skills through repetition, reinforcement, comfort and routine.
Children want to understand where they stand and constantly exercising their ability to be independent and have a sense of control. Meal times are a great opportunity for a child to have that feeling of control over their world and ultimately their mouth.
1: Social Modeling Start incorporating family meal times at least three times a week. The more your child can observe you eating the better.
2: Create Awareness
Create awareness around how we ourselves approach food; the language we use, our relationship with food and how that would look to someone else. Assist your children with creating awareness around their connection and relationship with food.
Children thrive on consistency! Try your best to make meal times predictable and that will create less resistance. This means not only creating a consistent environment around mealtimes but also being consistent with offerings of food (even if they refuse).
Food rejection is a completely normal behaviour! Research shows that it can take a child over twenty exposures to a particular food before they accept it.
Children are looking for a sense of independence and control when it comes to food so why not let them explore! Set up a sensory table with food items, incorporating food into arts and crafts and one of my favourite ways to explore control around food is cooking with my little ones and getting them in the kitchen!
When introducing new foods to your child you're more likely to be successful if you incorporate some foods that they already accept. For example, if you want to introduce spaghetti to your child but all they seem to eat is toast; Simply give them spaghetti with a side of toast and let them explore! Predictability to a child means safety.
Children are incredibly good at regulating their own food intake and hunger. Sometimes it can be as simple as them just not being hungry.
At the end of the day; I get it! I am a Mum to three little humans and I am in the trenches with you. I encourage you to look to others for inspiration and not comparison and if you get anything out of this I hope it is that you are not alone!
And if at anytime you are concerned about your child's health, wellbeing or development reach out and access support from your preferred medical practitioner.
Why not explore my meal plan membership?
This recipe subscription includes:
A weekly dinner menu
Recipes for all meals included
A full shopping list
Access to a private support group
A sixty minute live coaching chat with me
Ways to alter recipes to suit your dietry needs
Tips and tricks for organisation, fussy eating and more
I'll meet you there x