My Child is Throwing an Epic Temper Tantrum…Now What?

We’ve all been there. You’re out with your child at the _____(grocery store, restaurant, library, etc.) and your child melts into a ______(screaming, yelling, crying, etc.) puddle on the floor.  Over time, SEEC faculty has developed tips and tricks for dealing with the tantrum.

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Stop and Drop

Unless the child is in the middle of the street or in immediate danger, we don’t try and push forward with the activity. Stop what you are doing and drop to their level so that you are face to face. This helps the conversation feel more personal and meets children  on their level.

Stay Calm

It’s easy to get flustered and frustrated when a child is upset and acting out. However, it’s often more effective to remain calm and level headed. Not only is it better for you, but you are modeling the behavior you want to see from the child. We speak slowly in a soft voice, using vocabulary that is age-appropriate and clear. What we say to a toddler might be different than a preschooler.  During a tantrum, children’s brains are on over drive, so it’s important to make it easier for them to understand our words. Also, we suggest to children that they take a minute to calm themselves, so that we can better understand their words.  Self-soothing is an important skill to learn and we want to give them time and space to figure that out if possible. Since children are unpredictable, it often helps to add extra time to your routine – you will both have a better day if you have time to calm down.

Acknowledge their Feelings

Adults don’t much care for it when they are upset and someone responds to them, “You’re ok!” or “Stop being upset!”? The same is true for children.  It’s important to verbally acknowledge when a child is upset. Saying things like “I can see that made you very angry.” or “I know you are upset about…” will help children feel like they are being heard. It may seem little from an adult perspective, but its not for them, When we stop and listen, we are demonstrating behavior that will help them develop into adults who can deal in healthy ways with their emotions.

Pre-Verbal or Limited Language

Young children especially may throw a tantrum because they don’t have the verbal skills yet to communicate effectively. If we saw what they were doing before the meltdown, we start by narrating the preceding events. For example, “I saw you were playing with the toy and a friend took it from you. Is that what is upsetting you?” or “I watched you crawl over there and reach for a book, would you like help getting it.”

Negotiable V. Non-Negotiable

Once you’ve identified and acknowledged a child’s feelings, you still have to grapple with the tantrum trigger. In some situations, it may not be what they want but the way they went about getting your attention that was the problem. In such situations, after the child has calmed down, ask them to re-frame the request. “Can you ask me in a calm way if we can stay and play a little longer.”

Natural consequences can also be easier and more effective than having a power struggle over the tantrum. A child may not want to wear a coat on a chilly day or may insist on wearing a heavy coat in the middle of summer. Children will  learn that both scenarios will result in their own discomfort. A smart parenting move is to take the weather appropriate clothing with you, so that another tantrum doesn’t result from that discomfort.

Other times, you may want to offer a child a reasonable choice: “you can’t wear sandals when its snowing, but you can choose between two shoes that you, the adult, deems appropriate for a snowstorm. Again, caregivers should encourage children to use calm and respectful language when making requests.

There will also be times when you simply are not going to give a child their way. Think about crossing the street. A child may refuse to hold your hand and begin to have a tantrum. We’ve all been there, you have 30 seconds to cross and are already running late for work.  Your response can be non-negotiable – crossing streets is a safety issue and you need to stick to a schedule. Its ok to let a child be upset. You can give them the choice of holding hands or being picked up, but let them know that safety is first. Its awful to hear a child screaming, but using a calm voice and acknowledging their feelings is sometimes all that you can do. Remember, children also need to learn to cope with disappointment and frustration and a situation like this, is part of their learning journey.

 

At the end of the day these tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development. Although challenging, try not to feel like other’s are judging you. Chances are they have been through a similar experience with a child at some point. You are an expert on your child and ultimately know their personality better than a stranger does.

Keep an eye out for another upcoming blog on calming strategies or take a look back at 10 Tips and Tricks to help you both make it through the challenging moments.

Have something that works well for you and your family? If so, PLEASE share below. We are always grateful to be able to learn from each other!

 

Take Your Baby to a Museum! It will be awesome!

New addition to the family and desperate to get out? Why not grab your infant carrier and take your baby to a museum? Museums are quiet, climate controlled, and full of visual stimuli for you and baby to explore. And now, more and more museums are specifically catering to this audience. Our neighbors on the National Mall are becoming more and more family friendly. A great way to find out about family friendly events is to visit the Smithsonian’s event calendar and select the Kids and Family category.

You don’t need a special event to visit with your baby though. Below, you’ll find reasons why we think exploring a museum with your baby is awesome and our suggestions on how to have a successful visit with your youngest family member.

The Why

  1. It’s Quiet

Museums are quiet. Sometimes quieter than your home which will translate to a calm soothing environment for you and baby.

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  1. Brain Stimulation

This is a great place for you both to learn. For adults, you are able to read exhibit labels and increase your visual literacy. For babies, a museum provides an opportunity to receive great visual stimulation from the objects while also learning to adapt to new environments. In addition, they are also building vocabulary as you describe what they are seeing (more details below).

  1. Lots of Places to Sit

There are usually lots of places for you and baby to sit and take a break. If a museum doesn’t have many benches, they will often provide gallery stools (just ask at reception). Take baby out of the carrier or stroller and find a spot to sit and spend some time looking at the art.

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  1. Free

If you live in or near D.C., museums are free. This means you can spend as much or as little time in the museum as you want. There is no need to feel guilty if you only last 20 minutes. Talk about budget friendly!

  1. Temperature Controlled

The temperature in a museum is always just right. Summers and winters are brutal and often limit a new parent’s ability to organize an outing with their child. Museums offer large temperature-controlled environments for you and baby to shed layers on cold days or to cool down during hot summer weather.

  1. Food and Coffee

Museums are one stop shops. There is usually a café attached  so you don’t have to transition or travel to a new space for a beverage or a meal.

Museums offer lots of space for movement. Babies like to be on the go and museum galleries are great places for a stroll while you both are also actively learning and looking. You could also park the stroller and lay out a blanket to allow baby to get in some tummy time near an exciting object in the gallery. If you are not feeling comfortable doing this in the gallery, try starting in a common space like a courtyard or in the lobby. The National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum have a wonderful space for this type of activity in their sunny covered central lobby.

 

The How

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  1. Pick the Right Museum

When possible, start by visiting a museum with which you are familiar and comfortable. Being able to navigate the space easily will reduce the stress of taking your baby out on this type of adventure for the first time. Knowing the width of hallways and where the elevators are located will enable you to relax and enjoy exploring this new environment. In addition, it is important to choose a collection that is engaging for both you and your child. A museum of miniatures might be great for a solo adult visit, but would probably be too small for your baby’s field of vision. We recommend galleries with large graphic objects for babies.

  1. Make it Social

Grab another caregiver  to join you on your visit. This will allow your babies to have new social interactions and provide you time to hit a short pause on the baby talk and also enjoy some adult conversations.

  1. Set Up a Timeline

Plan to visit the museum during a time you think you and your child might enjoy it the most. Even if your child ends up sleeping through the whole event, they are still absorbing  the environment and learning from that experience.

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  1. Let Go (Babies make sounds, it’s ok!)

While museums prefer that sound is kept to a level that allows all patrons enjoy the objects, this does not mean that visitors need to be silent.  Patrons and museum staff understand that babies make sounds, and may get upset and cry. It’s ok! Try not to spend the whole time worrying about it. Instead, understand their coos and chirps as part of your ongoing dialogue as you explore the galleries.

  1. Narrate to Baby

This is a great habit to incorporate throughout your daily routine, but especially in the museum. Babies may not be able to respond with words, but your new baby is listening and picking up language and verbal skills from your dialogue. Since babies’ eyes may not yet be able to see all the sharp details of the objects, it is important to describe the works so you can help them better “visualize” the museum’s collection.

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  1. Bring Hands on Materials

To enable children to develop deeper connections with what they are seeing, bring something along that relates to the object, with which they can interact. For example, if you are going to a natural history museum bring along some faux fur or snake skin so that they can touch these materials while observing the creatures in the animal hall. This allows the object to come “out from behind the glass” and interact with the child.

  1. Attend a Baby Museum Class

Not ready to head out on your own? Try joining a baby in museum program at a local museum. If you’re in D.C., check out SEEC’s Bring Your Own Baby infant program: here . During this guided visit you’ll join other families with new babies and explore the galleries with an engaging and supportive educator. By the end you’ll feel excited and empowered to take independent museum explorations with your baby!

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make Transitions Easier for You and Your Child

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Mealtime, ending play time, leaving school, going to bed, these are just a few of the many of transitions your child works through every day. Transitions can be difficult for young children whose brains are still maturing – they haven’t developed the type of self control that adults have. To make matters worse, a child’s day is often dictated by factors that have little meaning to a child. Why does it matter if you have to be at a meeting or their big brother needs to be picked up?  Tensions between adults and children quickly arise and often a power struggle results.  Fear not, here a few SEEC-proven strategies to make transitions easier for everyone!

Visual Schedule and Calendars

Calendar time is often an important component of early childhood classrooms. Children take turns serving as the calendar helper, often sharing information with the class about birthdays or special events. Similarly, most classrooms will also have a visual representation of their day.  Visual schedules in the classroom and at home help give children autonomy, provide them with a sense of time and routine, and it can eliminate having to repeat yourself. It helps to make the calendar with your child so that he or she is invested in it. Let the child choose colors, decorations, or the location.  A schedule enables children to take ownership and is a great way to prepare them for any changes to their normal routine.

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“Give Me Five”

Early childhood educators around the world will use the phrase “Give me five.” We might ask them to hold up five fingers or to literally say “five.”  For younger children, an educator might simply hold up their hand while they get on the child’s level and try to make eye contact. This ensures that they pause what they are doing and take in the fact that their current activity is about to conclude. After “five” we may also give them “two: and when time has ended we may ring a gentle bell or sing a song. Either way, this helps alert them that their activity will be ending soon, and we will be moving on to the next part of our day.

Timers

Since time is not a concrete concept to young children, visual timers are a great way to help a child see the passing of time. Sand timers come in all different lengths and are a favorite in the SEEC classrooms. These show the children when time is up and helps to keep adults and children honest about deadlines. If children can see the change coming, they can more easily transition to the next activity.

Routine

Having a routine is essential for a child. If they can usually count on things happening in a specific order, they are less likely to be upset.  A routine can be especially important for drop-offs. We find that the most successful drop-offs occur when the child has been prepared and knows the routine. This routine could include the adult helping the child put items in their cubby and then reading one book or drawing one picture together before leaving. Staying longer or changing the routine actually makes the transition harder. Sticking with the plan allows your child to recover from the separation quicker and over time will make transitions a breeze!

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Save It

If a child is still playing, building, or creating when it is time to move on to the next activity, offer to save what they are working on. Part of the anxiety of transitioning occurs when children think their masterpiece will be destroyed. When possible offer to save their creation – you may even want to create a special place projects that are still “under construction.”

 

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Don’t Start What We Can’t Finish

Sometimes, there is just not time to squeeze something extra into an already packed schedule. Leaving something fun just as a child gets started can cause them to feel frustrated and angry. That being said, not doing something they want to do can be equally as frustrating. If you have to say no, give the child a choice of two things they could do instead. With older children, you can think together about a time when you might be able to return to the activity. Maybe there will be more time tomorrow to paint – just make sure that you follow up.

Ease Into It

We try not to create drastic changes in energy levels between activities. For example, we don’t have playground time directly before nap, instead we have lunch, quiet story time, and then nap. This helps children slowly decrease their energy level and relax, making the transitions feel less severe. Its always good to avoid getting the kiddos wound up just before bed time.

Songs and Lighting

We often use songs and lights to help children through transitions. When it is time to stop playing, we will sing the clean-up song, and when it is time to eat we will sing “Open-Shut them.” As we transition from lunch to nap, we may dim the lights while the children finish their meal and turn on the nap time music.  This provides a physical reminder that a change of activities is coming and helps them mentally prepare to rest.

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Participate in the Transition

Having the children help clean up, set the table, etc. allows them to be an active member of the transition. Participating in the transition usually makes them more interested in the next move and thus, more willing to go along with it.

 

How do transitions go in your house? Have a great way to help your child change from activity to activity? Please share!

 

 

 

 

Painting With Tea: Connections

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Did you enjoy painting with tea? Take this activity one step further by reading a story and heading out into the community with your child. It will allow them to make connections and to understand tea in a broader context. Here are few suggestions to get you started, including those used during the original lesson.

Museum Visit:

If you’re in the D.C. area these exhibits would provide great ways to create an in-depth look at the process of making and drinking tea:

Detail of Julia's Kitchen

Julia’s Kitchen @ The National Museum of American History- This is a great place to explore someone else’s kitchen and make comparisons to your own. Ask your child how they think Julia would make her tea? Take turns pointing to the different tools (including the tea pot and kettle) she would use in her kitchen to make it. You can even sing “I’m a little teapot!”

Tea Set by John Satterfield @ Smithsonian American Art Museum- This tea set looks different and very modern. Talk about how it would feel to drink tea from the cup. Mime pouring tea for a tea party and taking pretend sips. Compare this set to cups and tea sets you might have at home.

Russian Tea by Irving Wiles @ Smithsonian America Art Museum- Start by asking your child what they see. Talk about the social aspect of drinking tea. Explain how it was used to gather people together. Discuss what these ladies might be talking about and create a pretend dialogue for the subjects of the painting.

Teal Bowl with Stand @ Freer Sackler Galleries- This is a great way to talk about geography and tea culture in other parts of the world. Bring along a map to show your child where the tea cup is from. Talk about how it is the same or different from a tea cup at home. Ask them how it would feel to hold this cup.

Community Visit:

No museum nearby or just don’t have the time? Here are a few visits you can do in any neighborhood!

Home goods store- Check out the different vessels for holding tea including cups and pots. Discuss how they are the same or different, and which you would choose to hold your tea.

Coffee Shop- Talk to the barista about how they brew tea and what types of tea they carry. Ask about differences between the teas available in the shop. You could also ask which are the most popular and then share a non-caffeinated variety with your child.

Grocery Store- The tea aisle at the grocery store is a wonderful place to discuss the varieties of tea. There are so many choices! Discuss with your child the different types of tea and how they are packaged (loose leaf, bags, triangle bags etc.). Talk about the different flavors and decide on a couple to take home and taste. To take it one step further, and take some time when you get home to research how that particular variety is made.   You might even cut open the bags to see what is inside.

Books:

Grab one of these great books from your local library!

Azuki Loves Green Tea by Rebekah Mullaney

Tea with Milk by Allen Say

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Coming to Tea by Sarah Garland

 

Have other ideas on how to connect tea painting to other activities and literature? Please share!

Painting With Tea

We Tried It Every Way, So You Don’t Have To:

Painting with Tea

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“Which of these will work best?” “Can I use this instead?” “How much of this would be ideal?”  These are just a few examples of the questions we ask ourselves as we prepare activities for our family programs. Project ideas are everywhere, but more often than not, they don’t show all the details. SEEC’s faculty knows that what you see isn’t always what you get. In this blog, we’ll provide a peek behind the curtain and show you an example of how a SEEC educator goes about creating a project and ensuring that it provides the best opportunity for the child to be creative and feel successful. In other words, we’ve tried it a million different ways, so you don’t have to.

The Original Activity

This week it’s all about tea! Our featured activity comes from our Toddler Trailblazers family program, Tea TimePainting with tea is an activity provided during the playful choices  portion of the program as families arrive. Children were provided with watercolor paper, shallow bowls with tea bags and tea, paint brushes, smocks, and wipes.  Both brushes and tea bags were provided in case a child felt more comfortable using a familiar tool rather than the tea.  A variety of tea types were set out including black, green and herbal teas (hibiscus, passion fruit, cherry, and blueberry). The teas were pre-brewed to allow the water time to cool before the bags were handled by the children.

We don’t give any additional instruction because we want to emphasize the importance of process-based art.  We want to encourage the children to create without a pre-determined outcome and enjoy the process of creation without the need to achieve a specific finished product. With this project, children may create something figural/representational or abstract. Whatever the child’s choice, the experience will result in joyful painting and a final product full of vibrant hues of watercolor.

Trial and Error

Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves when preparing this project:

  • Which types of tea work best?
  • How long should they be brewed?
  • What tools work well to paint with tea?
  • What should we paint on?
  • How do I contain the mess?
  • What’s the best way to dry the finish work?

I tried out some of these approaches myself and then I recruited some young friends (ages fives and two) to help me test it out! Here’s what I found.

Types of Tea (option 1)

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Tea Brewing (option 1)

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Painting Tools

Painting Base

Less Mess

Drying

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After all that trial and error, here is what we decided would help most achieve the successful outcomes with this project!

Painting with Tea Final Conclusions (1)

We hope this was helpful and encourages you to try out this activity! Send us pictures of your creations and let us know how it went! Be sure to check back next week for ways to take this activity one step further by making connections to literature, museums, and community visits!

 

 

10 Reasons Your Child’s Rock Collection is Important

 

PondIf you have a child age two or older, chances are that you also have a collection of their “treasures” in your home. They may include rocks, sticks, sea shells, cars, or even stuffed animals. To children, these objects are irreplaceable artifacts to be cherished and preserved. They take their collecting seriously and we should too! Collecting provides a multitude of learning opportunities for your child. Below you’ll find just 10 examples of the many lessons your child is learning through their collections and collecting habits.

Categorizing and Sorting

As children collect, they will start to sort their objects into different categories: Big, medium, small rocks, Rough, smooth, and spiky rocks etc. Categorizing and sorting are important early math skills and build the foundation for understanding more complicated patterns in the future. Encourage your child to continue to re-sort their collection in different ways.

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Counting is also an early math skill. As your children mature, they will become interested in counting the things around them, including their collection. Encourage them to count the number of items in their collection and then how many are in each category. With a slightly older child, take away or add an item and ask them to count again. This is addition and subtraction!

Storytelling and Imaginary Play

A child’s collection provides endless opportunities for storytelling and play. Encourage them to tell the story of how and where the object was found or make up something entirely different. Rocks and stuffed animals often take on names and personalities. They may also use their rocks as construction materials for roads, walls, and even castles. Pretend and role playing are important part of children’s social and emotional development. It allows them to work out scenarios before they encounter them in real life situations.

Care and Empathy

Have you noticed how much your children love their rocks? Sometimes you’ll find them being washed or wrapped in blankets. This is a great lesson in caring for others. If you take care of your collection it will last longer!

Memory and Timeline

A young child’s perception of time is not a straight line. Things that didn’t happen that day usually fall into a “yesterday” category, even if they happened two days or even a week before. A collection allows a child to practice recalling information and acts as a physically representation of a time in the past. For example, children may recall collecting a particular rock from the beach when it was warm out. Since it’s not warm out now, they will be able to deduce that it must have been a long time ago. If a child allows, you could even write down where the rock was found on its’ underside.  This will also help you remember where and when the rock was collected and facilitate conversations on that topic.

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Same, Same but Different

Very young children start by sorting items into familiar categories. For example, if you tell an infant or young toddler that something with four legs and a tail is a dog, then things that fit that description will automatically be labeled a dog until you tell them otherwise.  A collection is a great way to show how things can be in the same category, but look completely different. For example, their collection may consist completely of rocks but no two rocks are the same.

Communication

Speaking with your children about their collections facilitates vocabulary building. They are learning how to describe objects and will begin to incorporate new synonyms and adjectives into their glossary as you provide them.

Understanding Limits

Sometimes they can’t have every rock they see and it’s ok for them to hear, “no.” Collecting doesn’t automatically mean they can have every item they see and it’s a great way for them to get practice respecting limits. Make sure to take time to explain to them why they can’t have certain items. Does it belong to someone else? Is it too big to take home? This will help them understand that actions have consequences.

Ownership

A child loves having something that is truly their own. A collection of rocks or sticks that have been found and brought home by children gives them a sense of ownership they might not feel for their other things. They may feel a tremendous amount of pride showing off their collection to others.

Self-Soothing and Comfort

Since children can become very attached to their collection, bringing along an item in a pocket or backpack can act as a great tool for self-soothing and comfort. Having a special item from home can remind them of family when they are at school or away from home visiting relatives or friends and begin to miss their parents.

What does your child collect? A great way to take their collection one step further is to create a mini-museum in your home. Select a low shelf and help your child arrange the items and create labels describing them. Host an opening for your friends and family and allow your child to give tours of their collection!

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make Dinner Time Less Challenging

Picky eater? Feel like you’ve tried it all? We get it! Here a few things that have helped us at SEEC make meal times go a little smoother.

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  1. Dress up

Try a themed meal. Everyone comes dressed in a costume, a fancy (washable) outfit, or even pajamas. This will make dinner feel like a fun family event instead of the ultimate stand-off. Your child will look forward to showing off their special duds at the table and shift their focus away from the normal ultimate stand-off they are prepared for and maybe even try the meal.

  1. Sing a song to set the mood

Getting your child to the table can often be half the battle. At SEEC, we all eat together as a group. Once everyone is seated we sing a song to signify it is time to eat. It has become a favorite event for the children at SEEC and there are often tears if a child doesn’t get to participate in this part of the day.

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  1. Try-it-bite

At this point, almost everyone has used the “try-it-bite” with their child. However, it shouldn’t only be required of the kids, adults at the table should model the same behavior by putting a “try-it-bite” of something on their own plate. Then organize a unified “try-it” moment during the dinner. We all have our preferences so if a child has tried something before and claimed they don’t like it, it is possible that it’s true. Taste buds change over time but forcing them to try an item again shortly after they have declared their preference can feel like you are not listening and respecting their words.

  1. Serve Themselves

An important milestone is when a child can pour without spilling and feed themselves with utensils. Why not give them a chance to practice at dinner? Instead of plating their food, allow your child to dish up their own meal. This way they can decide how much to put on their plate. When a child declares they are done, but there is food still left on their plate, remind them that they chose to put that amount on their plate and should try to finish what they have taken.

  1. Clear Transitions

No one, not even adults, like to be ripped away from their current activity or to go straight to a seated meal before having a little time to transition. Be sure there is time for your child to decompress between preschool, daycare, or whatever previous activity they were a part of. Provide them with warnings so that they can begin to prepare for the transition to dinner. At SEEC we give children a five-minute warning and ask them to repeat it back to us. They might not tell time or understand exactly how long five minutes is, but they understand that soon they will stop with one activity and move to the next. If your child needs a more concrete way to understand the passing of time try a sand timer. You can get them in a variety of time lengths and it’s a great visual representation of the passing of time.

  1. Reflection and Sticker Chart

Having especially difficult meal times or having trouble getting your child to eat anything at all? Try a sticker chart. Sit down with your child and ask them to reflect on how they thought the meal went. Provide a smiley or similar sticker and if you both agree the meal went well (you can decide what this means since it will be different for every family) they get to add the sticker to the chart. You can even provide a small reward for a week full of successful meals (this could be something as easy as an extra book bed at bedtime!).

  1. Food Presentation

The way a child responds to food could not only be based on taste but on texture and shape. If you are getting the “it looks weird” face try mashing or pureeing the item so that it takes on a form similar to something they do like. Even as adults we respond to how something looks or feels as we eat.

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  1. Keep it Fun

When someone says you have to do something, most of our initial reactions are to dig in or push back. Children are the same. If you take the pressure off the meal and keep things light, the meal will be much more enjoyable for everyone. Children have a wonderful ability to read a mood and then reflect it back. Just remember, if you are frustrated they will be too.

  1. Take Bites like an Animal

Make eating into a game. Does your child have a favorite animal? Are they really into trucks? Why not ask them to take small mouse bites to try a new food or pretend they are a backhoe shoveling up a big bite!

  1. New Eating Tools

Try mixing up the eating implement as it will make eating more fun. Try chopsticks or even a spork. The novel aspect of the eating tool will make it exciting for your child to use it to eat. It also has the added benefit of providing your child with additional fine motor practice!

 

Have other tricks that work for your family? Please share!