Children can be notoriously fussy eaters. Whether it's an aversion to anything green or an obsession with turkey dinosaurs, trying to encourage healthy eating to fuel those little bodies can seem like an almost impossible task. While there is no miraculous method that will solve every eating problem, here are some ways that you can get your kids to eat healthy.
Have fun with food
Life is a game when you're little, and children learn most when they are playing. Food, however, can seem like a bit of a chore – it's taking away from valuable play time! – especially if they are having to sit down to eat a boring meal. A plate of bangers and mash just doesn't seem very engaging when compared to the action of a game and the added nagging to eat properly, sit sensibly, use your knife and fork correctly won't make it any easier. So make it fun!
While manners are important, actually getting tricky eaters to try food that is good for them is a bigger priority. Relax, don't nag, and just enjoy your meal. If they pick up a carrot to munch on with their fingers well, at least they're having some veggies and they'll be learning about different textures at the same time.
And you can bring out your artistic side! A plate of bangers and mash can very quickly become a tower of sausages on a mash potato hill with a peas and gravy moat. You could even turn the meal into a story with your child, roping the eating into the narrative to encourage their participation. The meal becomes another form of play rather than a chore.
Older children may be harder to convince that their meal is part of a fairy tale but that doesn't mean you can't make food fun for them. Get them involved in the presentation side of things and see what happens. Meals where they can get creative, like DIY pizzas or fajitas, will let them get hands-on with their food and can encourage them to branch out from their usual choices. After all, it's easier to make a picture on a pizza if you choose a variety of toppings rather than sticking to plain cheese.
Get them involved
A fussy eater can make preparing dinner a chore. Don't you hate it when you have to make multiple meals to accommodate differing tastes? It uses up a lot of time and effort. Rather than trying to tackle it all yourself, stressing out about the time you're wasting on food that probably won't be eaten, why not recruit your kids to help you out instead?
Children love to feel like they're being given special responsibilities, so roping them into helping you make dinner can be fun for them while also making them more aware of the effort that goes into keeping them fed. Obviously the given tasks will need to be supervised and chosen based on their age and ability – and clean up may be worse than if you'd just grabbed those beloved turkey dinosaurs – but cooking with the kids gives you the opportunity to prep healthy home-made meals that they will feel more inclined to eat. They made it after all!
Cooking together also provides great learning opportunities, opening discussions about everything from nutrition to where our food comes from, and will give them life skills that they can carry into adult life. And you can teach them how to clean up after themselves too!
You don't have to limit their involvement to the kitchen, however. Eating healthy is a lot easier when there's good food in the house, so why not let them help at the supermarket? Have them help you with making a list of meals and then they can go on a quest to find items at the shop. Round the adventure out with a final prize; picking a new fruit or vegetable for to try together. They learn more about where food comes from, along with a touch of budgeting, and you get to remind them that they chose whichever meal they argue about later.
Play hide-and-seek with veggies
When the kids aren't helping you prep meals, your inner spy has the opportunity to come out. Quite often it's the idea of veggies that they don't like, not the taste, meaning that the children are unlikely to complain if they don't know they're there. This is where a blender becomes your best friend. You can blitz a multitude of nutritious goldmines into pasta sauces, curries, and smoothies, and your little ones will guzzle them up completely unaware that you're pumping them full of healthy things. Different fruits and vegetables will give you a range of flavours to choose, meaning you can adapt things according to the tastes of you and your family. Even without a blender, vegetables can be chopped into little pieces and thrown into whatever you're cooking for a nutritional boost. Spinach is great for this – it can be chopped into tiny pieces and shrinks down quickly – but finely chopped carrots and other vegetables will give you texture and variety.
Looking after kids is hard – you're constantly working to keep them healthy and happy but they often feel like they're working against you. Food can be one of the biggest battles. Sometimes, even after all your efforts, they still would rather have plain toast than even taste what you've made. Don't beat yourself up about it; many children go through a phase of only eating a limited selection of food. And, as tempting as it is, don't push them too much. You getting upset or constantly nagging them to eat will only cause them to push back, building a negative association with the healthy food you want them to have.
Instead, keep presenting them with options and trying to engage them in the preparation of food. Live by example, showing them that you are willing to try new foods and that you like certain foods because you know they're good for you. Let their understanding of nutrition and how it helps their bodies build. Eventually you'll find that they decide to diversify their eating habits themselves and they will be far happier having made that choice on their own.
Let us know on Twitter how you get your little ones to eat healthy @ParentWeek or with #ParentalAdviceWeek
Reading with your baby is a fantastic way to bond, as well as to teach them the basics of reading. It’s something the two of you can enjoy, and even when they grow up they’ll remember and cherish those tattered books that have been sitting in the attic for years.
Here are our top picks for children books aged 0-3, click on the covers for more details.
The ‘That’s not My…’ Series – Fiona Watt
A fantastic series of little books for young babies which all feature a new animal and material for your child to touch. Bringing in a tactile element can make the experience far more attention keeping, and there are books in the series for every animal imaginable.
If you think we missed something out, or want to upload a picture of you reading with your baby, tweet us @ParentWeek
For something so small, a new baby can generate a lot of 'stuff', and travelling with a little one is no exception. By the time you've packed enough clothes, nappies, and wipes along with feeding equipment, muslins, and the rest of your day to day baby paraphernalia, the chances are you'll have exceeded not only your luggage allowance, but your partner's too!
It's not just the additional luggage to think about, but also how your little one will cope with the flight, and what the best destination would be.
Here are just a few things to consider:
First, look at the flight time that will be involved if you're heading abroad. Think about how long you would realistically want to spend on a flight with your little one before it all gets just a little too much. We'd recommend nowhere further than 2-4 hours away, so look at destinations as close as France or as far as Tenerife and the other Canary Islands.
Make sure wherever you are planning your holiday, you look at the average weather of the destination at the time of year you plan to visit. Extremely high temperatures can cause severe distress for your baby, not to mention health dangers: dehydration, accidental sunburn, heatstroke, to name just a few.
Speak to the hotel you are hoping to stay at well before you book, to check that the accommodation has everything you could possibly require for a stay with a baby in tow.
Draw up a wish list of what the hotel might have and find one that matches your needs.
The idea of baby's first family holiday can often be so exciting for mum and dad that budgets go out of the window and it's easy to get carried away.
Do remember that your baby will not have any memories of the holiday, so there's no need to spend a fortune. Just book somewhere that your bank balance will thank you for and don't be tempted to splurge unnecessarily.
If most of your money is going on nappies and powdered milk and maternity leave pay isn't the best, really think hard about whether it would be best to postpone a holiday until baby is a little older and budgets aren't quite so tight.
Other Passengers - Although some may find this a bit controversial, when heading abroad with a baby it can be a clever idea to invite friends or other family members along. Perhaps the child's grandparents would like to be a part of baby's first holiday and, this also means there will be more people to help share the load of keeping the little one fed, watered and happy for the duration of the break.
It also means mum and dad might be able to get some alone time together, even if just for one evening, whilst grandma and granddad take on babysitting duties.
So with all this in mind, find somewhere to go and enjoy your holiday, you deserve it!
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Coming home with a new baby for the first time is an incredible experience, encompassing an entire range of emotions, from fear and worry to elation and excitement. However, coming home with your second baby can be a little overwhelming.
Not only do you have a precious new bundle of joy, but also your first child to think about. It's natural to have concerns about how a new baby will impact your existing family unit and to want to make the transition from one to two as smooth as possible.
Keep introductions short
Both parents will be excited about a new baby, but also anxious about how their new little one will impact their family. The new arrival can be unsettling for an older sibling, particularly if they are still just a toddler themselves. A big brother or sister will be inquisitive and very curious about the noises and movements the new baby will make. Most toddlers find all the attention is on baby and not them, so this can cause regression and tantrums.
Keep introductions to the new baby short and sweet. Give lots of praise to big brother (or sister!) and ask them to be gentle. Then distract them with something else, otherwise you might find yourself being negative all the time as they try to poke the new baby’s eyes when being inquisitive.
When you have visitors ask them to speak to your older child first rather than go straight over to the baby.
Prepare your little one
Before the new baby arrives, read stories with your older child about having a new brother or sister. Once the baby is born, let your toddler express their feelings without reproach. Be calm and positive. Let them know that while things will change, they'll still be just as important.
Usually breastfeeding is much easier the second-time round as your body has been through it all before, so not only will you feel more comfortable handling your teeny bundle but you’ll also have more milk which is usually available sooner than with your first.
Your toddler may become bored if you sit down to breastfeed often, so it is helpful to create activities around breastfeeding that only happen at or during feeding times, for example, book, bed and baby time where you get your toddler into your bed with a book and his bottle and while you snuggle up, breastfeed baby and read a book at the same time.
Remember that breastfeeding second time needs to be efficient. Unless you have a very patient toddler, you’ll probably only have 30 minutes per feed during the day. Use breast massage or compression to keep your milk flowing and baby swallowing throughout the feed. The more your baby swallows, the shorter your feeds will be.
You may find that you need to introduce expressing earlier with your second baby than you did with your first child.
Create one-to-one time with the older sibling
It’s important to try to still have one-to-one time with the older sibling without the baby. So, when the new baby is having a nap, dedicate play time to your older child; that way they won’t feel the need to start attention seeking behaviour which can turn into a temper tantrum.
Feeding and weaning routines
Get organised – cooking meals in advance and freezing them prior to birth will help ease the pressure of cooking meals in the first few weeks after baby is born. For toddlers, this is very important as they are still very much in the weaning stages. At this age, a child requires three balanced meals and two healthy snacks per day to achieve their required calorie intake.
Try to maintain your toddler’s feeding routine. There have been major changes in the family dynamic, so trying to keep some familiarity in your toddler’s routine will be comforting.
Your toddler may regress slightly and insist that mummy feed them after seeing the new sibling being fed by mummy – even if they were happily feeding themselves before. Be prepared to cope with extra demands, and try to ease your toddler’s feelings of insecurity by offering one-on-one time with them as often as possible. You can also cook their favourite meals and give them lots of hugs and kisses as often as you can.
Include your toddler as much as possible
The more secure your toddler feels, the less rivalry you can expect, as your toddler won’t see the new baby as a threat. Giving your first child a sense of responsibility and ownership of their little brother or sister will quickly get them on board and creates the opportunity for you to make a fuss over them every time they help.
For example, ask them to fetch a nappy, wipes, find a dummy, find a soft toy for the baby, sing baby a song. All these things will make them feel important and a valued member of the team. Of course, they'll get bored eventually and leave you in peace to breastfeed your new-born.
Let your little one find their own role as an older sibling. Resist the urge to put pressure on them to love the baby or help too much. Give your toddler opportunities to get involved but don’t worry if they don’t always want to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Having two babies at different development stages is exhausting. It’s probably closer to triple the work, so preparation is key. Your physical and mental health is going to be stretched so it’s time to be honest and practical about the support you’re going to need, not just to meet your children’s needs but your own as well. Getting additional help either from friends or family or paying for a cleaner can take the pressure off.
However, be firm with visitors. Family might be desperate to visit the new baby but parents need to be clear when they need to their space. Give them a time slot that suits you, and maybe a reminder to bring a cake with them.
Sleep routine for toddlers
When it comes to sleep, and with all your older child's daily life, it’s best to try to keep their same routine as this will also provide security in their changing world.
The main issue is whether your toddler will go into a toddler bed so the new baby can have their cot. This is a big decision and would need to have been done before baby arrives.
Don't forget your relationship
Some couples experience relationship problems when children are young because the demands are so high. You know how up and down you can feel with a new baby, and there may be times when you feel guilty that your attention is so divided between your children, leaving very little time for yourself and your partner. Make sure you talk to each other, be kind and work as a team.
Try to relax and enjoy it – and don't put too much pressure on yourself
The good news is you’ve done this before and can feel confident in your own abilities to be a positive parent. You’ve got plenty of recent experience and most of the resources and equipment needed for caring for a new-born, you can do this.
Giving advice to help with parents of the modern age.
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Copyright © 2017. For digital enquires please visit Digital Relations and for video production enquires please visit TeleVisualise