How to make mealtimes fun with a high chair
Starting your baby on solids is a fun, albeit messy, adventure. There are many ways to help make mealtimes fun, and safe, with your baby joining you in the kitchen in their high chair.
When your child is around 6 months old, you can start introducing them to solids. This is an important part of your baby’s development and teaches them how to eat and gives them experience with taste and texture. Your baby could be ready for solid food if they:
* Can sit up unaided and has good head and neck control
* Are co-ordinated enough to look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth unassisted/without your help
* Shows interest or reaches for your food
Start them off with iron-rich foods that can be easily mashed and digested, and from there they can move onto chopped or minced food. It is also recommended to introduce solids for the first time when you and your baby are relaxed which will help create a positive first mealtime moment. High chairs that offer additional comfort can also add to this experience and help you and your baby cherish this precious milestone together.
MAKE FOOD FUN
Try creating funny faces and shapes out of food - have you ever made a Watermelon Pizza? How about different toast toppings made into faces or animals? Be creative and cut food into different shapes, or provide a few different dipping sauces to let your child experiment with food and flavours. You can also engage your baby by ‘eating the rainbow’ and using brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in meals, they’ll love seeing and learning about the different colours.
Provide fun food options for your baby on their high chair tray, so they can explore the different shapes, colours and textures of food for themselves. Choose a high chair that is easy-to-wipe clean and includes dishwasher safe accessories (such as the Redsbaby HILO High Chair), or use a tray insert to ensure clean-ups after mealtimes are quick, easy and as stress-free as possible.
ENJOY MEALTIMES AS A FAMILY
Babies can learn to try healthy and new foods by seeing the whole family enjoy them. Babies and young children will also learn a lot about food, family traditions and eating behaviours by watching what you and other family members do at mealtimes. By including young children in growing, preparing and cooking food can be a great opportunity to teach them about healthy eating, and can increase their interest in food and willingness to taste new things.
Bring your baby’s high chair close to the table, so they feel part of the family at mealtimes. They’ll enjoy watching what you eat, and it may increase their interest in trying all of the different foods you’re eating.
INVOLVE YOUR BABY
Start including your baby or toddler in food preparation, baking and cooking - it can get messy, but they’ll love it! Position their high chair close to you in the kitchen (avoiding heat and other hazards), and let them watch and help you prepare food and snacks.
Here are some ideas to involve babies and toddlers in the kitchen:
* Let them try and mix the bowl
* Give them taste-tests of the ingredients
* Ask toddlers to do easy steps, like washing the fruit and vegetables
* Explain the recipe steps to them as you follow them
* Teach toddlers how to set the table, or give them free-rein on decorating it!
* Let them pour the (previously measured) ingredients into the bowl
* Talk about the ingredients you are using and how they’re grown or where they come from
* Cook quick recipes to hold their attention span
* Involve toddlers in choosing recipes and meal ideas
MAKE A MESS
It takes time to develop the fine motor skills required to eat neatly with a knife and fork. Better Health Victoria provide the following information for encouraging healthy eating habits for babies and toddlers:
* Find out about the stages of child development, so that you don’t expect too much of your child
* Plan for the mess by putting a plastic sheet under their high chair
* Present the foods in easy-to-eat ways, such as cut into strips or fingers
* Allow your child to eat with their hands rather than a knife and fork
* Say something like ‘food is for eating’ or ‘are you finished?’ if your child throws food
* Do not pay attention to the food on the floor – pick it up when the meal is finished
* For easy clean-ups after meals, consider laying a ‘splatter’ mat underneath your baby’s high chair, using a bib, and protecting the cushion on your high chair with a seat cover.
But most of all, get ready to create precious mealtime moments and lasting family memories with your baby, in the kitchen and around the dinner table.
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.