Feeding Red Flags: Prolonged Mealtimes
Just like many adults, children may not want to sit at the dinner table all evening. Limiting meal times to around 30 minutes is considered the ‘gold standard’ for both children and adults. When meals last more than that, children can often become fatigued, bored, and frustrated. Here are some tips to keep your child’s meal times shorter and more enjoyable!
Tip #1: Use a Timer
Use a timer/timer app. There are a lot of great timers out there that are ‘kid friendly!’ Sometimes kids need a visual reminder of the time allotted for meals. It can also help them learn to pace their own eating, rather than being dependent on parents or guardians.
Tip #2: Increase Chewing Skills
Many kids experience jaw fatigue, possibly due to slightly weak jaw muscles. You can adjust meals by presenting more ‘difficult’ or hard to chew foods first (such as meat, raw vegetables, etc.), then moving onto softer foods and purees. Also, you can strengthen jaw muscles by practicing chewing on a chew tube; place the tube on your child’s back teeth and encourage them to make ‘big dinosaur bites.’ We want to see the tube collapse.
Tip #3: Limit Distractions
Reduce distractions. Having toys at the table, tablets/iPads, or watching television can all reduce your child’s attention to eating. If your child has a difficult time sitting at the table without these things, work up gradually to longer times without those distractions at the table. Instead of resorting to these distracting tactics, try to engage your child in conversation and talk about the food on the table (for example, “what flavors does it have?”, “What color is it?”, “Is it soft or crunchy?”, etc.).