Food For Our Brood- Teaching Independence and Fine Motor Skills at Mealtimes

(Last Updated On: February 1, 2013)

Here’s a look at Today’s meals

Faithy- Kelloggs Frosted Miniwheats, banana (that she peeled herself), milk
Little Guy- Whole O’s by Nature’s Path, banana spears

Here’s a little video on how to spilt a banana into thirds for easy self-feeding. I usually cut the spears in half for Little Guy and they are just the right size for his little hands to hold.

Faithy- Whole wheat crackers and sliced strawberries, water

Faithy- blueberry yogurt, clementine, slice of whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter on it, Cherry flavored Juicy Juice.
Little Guy- Large curd cottage cheese, blueberries cut in quarters

Teaching children self-help skills and independence is a priority in our family. We spend a lot of time allowing our children to learn to do things for themselves like putting on their shoes, brushing their hair, and feeding themselves is no exception. When children are able to feed themselves it gives them a sense of autonomy and accomplishment, and they are better able to contribute to the smooth workings of our growing family. Today we had several examples of this concept in our menu.

Clementines are small, sweet, easy to peel mandarin oranges. Our kids LOVE them. Not only are they nutritious and delicious, but Grace and Faithy can peel them on their own. As you can see, Faithy is very proud of herself when she finished peeling hers for lunch today. This activity also teaches them responsibility. She is in charge of disposing of the peels once she is done eating. And, an added bonus: she is building the small muscles in her hands that she will need in the future to learn how to hold a pencil and write. This is a win, win, win situation!

Cottage cheese is not usually on the top of the list of things to feed a baby, but we have always given it to our children once they were about 7mo old…Little Guy was ready for his first try today. We bought whole milk, large curd cottage cheese and allowed him to feed himself. Yes, this is a messy meal, but it allowed him to determine how much of it he wanted to eat, gave him a great sensory experience, and he was building his fine motor skills too.

–A little side note about “Baby Led Weaning” and why it didn’t (fully) work for us–
“letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.”

When I first heard about the concept of baby led weaning after Little Guy was born, it seemed like something I was already doing with my girls. Allowing them to feed themselves as soon as they seemed ready. I watched endless videos of 6mo old babies chowing down on toast, canteloupe, chicken drumsticks. I thought to myself, “OK, I can do this, just step it up a notch.” Part of the philosophy of baby led weaning is that you NEVER put food into your child’s mouth, and spoon feeding is a big no no. WE tried this at first, giving Little Guy stems of steamed broccoli, whole bananas to gnaw on, canteloupe wedges etc. This lead to a very frustrated little baby. He was very excited about the food and wanted so desperately to eat it, but could not manage to get it into his mouth. His motor skills were not meeting up with his desire to eat. I sat back, and watched him struggle to lick the tray of the high chair and cry because he couldn’t get the food into his mouth. Once he was able to get the food into his mouth (about two months after we started offering foods) he would get too much into his mouth and gag. Every baby led weaning believer will tell you this is ok, and a normal learning process for eating. Well, it was just too much for me to handle. I have 2 other children who also need my attention, and I could not spend the time to sit for an hour and watch him like a hawk in case he began to choke. I think I inherrited my fathers fear of children choking, because the minute I hear a gag I want to dive right in and fish it out (I KNOW, wrong way to do it.) so we went back to what we knew: giving him lumpy purees and offering safe finger foods as his motor skills developed. We do a combination of purees and cereals along with lots of small bits of easy-to-gum table foods for little guy now, and he is a very happy eater. He prefers to feed himself when he can, but joyfully slurps down spoonfuls of applesauce from mommy too. He has a great chewing reflex and never gags on anything anymore (even the banana spears we give him now) because he has been exposed to feeding himself from an early age. I can feed him some purees to satisfy his appetite, and then allow him to feed himself puffed rice or avocado spears that I know he can handle on his own.

Even though I have 3 children now, there is always something new to learn about feeding kids. I take great joy in watching them  eat a good nutritious meal (as any mother does!). How have you encouraged your child’s independence at the dinner table? I’d love to hear your suggestions!