nother reflection of the toddler's growing autonomy and complexity is her attitude about food. Whereas infants have a limited diet and little ability to discriminate between foods, toddlers have strong food preferences. In addition, during the second year of life, healthy toddlers insist on controlling the acts of eating and drinking themselves. Foods are touched and smelled, as well as tasted. Some foods are preferred or rejected because of color, texture, or temperature, as well as taste.
I’ll bet some of you still won’t eat brockley or spinach! These foods are eaten with fingers, forks and spoons, and whatever other utensil is available. Furthermore, they are squeezed, crushed, and thrown. Somehow, whatever is being consumed manages to get all over the toddler’s face, clothes, high chair, floor and, often, Mom and Dad as well.
Eating should never be a battle ground between parent and child.. Parents should encourage the joyful exploration of food with all the senses as well as the active manipulation of foodstuffs and the acts of eating and drinking . I love the picture of the happily messy toddler enjoying himself on the cover of this book. We should all be able to enjoy eating that much.
Because of their limited frustration tolerance, it is difficult for toddlers to wait when they are hungry. Therefore, some eating should be allowed between parental mealtimes. Once served, toddlers (or older children for that matter) should not be forced to finish everything on their plate or taste all of the foods presented to them. Nor should neatness or table manners be emphasized during the toddler years. This degree of orderliness is beyond the capacity of the toddler. But it will eventually become, through the desire to identify with parents’ and older siblings’ more mature behavior, an integral part of the child’s interest in his desire to grow up.
Parents who are particularly controlling and fastidious may react strongly to the toddler’s independence and messiness. This reaction can be minimized to a degree by placing an oilcloth under the high chair and utilizing spill-proof cups and non-breakable dishes and utensils. The attitudes toward eating which are formulated during the first 3 years of life are the basis for a lifetime of healthful, pleasurable nourishment. Or they can be the foundation for eating disorders later in life.
Don’t worry. By the time they start to visit their friend’s homes, they’ll remember to put the napkin on their lap.
Linda and Tom were going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and were dressing for the occasion when it occurred to Mom that they had to feed two –year- old Caroline before they left. With a groan, Linda took off her dress. She put on jeans, a tee shirt and an apron and marched into the kitchen, fully shielded against the canned spaghetti which was her daughter’s favorite food of the moment. “When I watch Caroline eat, I think of the food fights I used to have with my brothers when I was a kid. Mind you, I don’t throw food at her, but somehow she manages to splatter me as well as herself. We do have a good time!”