When a baby is ready for solid foods, it often takes a while before your baby is actually excited about new flavours. They’re used to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, so the taste of vegetables and fruit is very different – let alone a warm meal or sandwich. And that little spoon! It looks weird and feels strange in their mouth. The key to success, according to our employee Lize, is to keep trying. ‘It usually takes a good while before your child will start to really like food. Sometimes it’ll go well from the first bite, but mostly it takes a bit of time.’
For many parents switching to foods other than breast or bottle is very exciting, a bit nerve wrecking maybe, but can be something to look forward to. It’s a milestone for sure. Your child discovering new flavours and textures is special. Make a fun moment out of it and don’t expect too much. Enjoy and laugh about the silly faces they make when they eat a bite of banana or carrot for the first time and respect their behaviour and any emotions your child might have.
When parents indicate they want to start with fruit or vegetables servings (also called practice foods) we’ll follow suit at Kindergarden. Usually this is after 4 or 6 months. We’ll always follow the parent’s wishes. When they ask for advice, we suggest starting with vegetables to make sure a child doesn’t get used to the sweet taste of fruit and refuses vegetables after that. Children have a natural preference for sweet tastes, so fruit quickly becomes a favourite. At Kindergarden we don’t puree the fruit, but we mash it. Mashed fruit has a little more structure and this will benefit oral motor skills. It stimulates chewing reflexes and mouth muscles, which in turn benefits language and speech development.
Another step forward
When things are going well with the practice foods, a child can move on to a warm meal. Also, we can slowly start introducing bread or a cracker if parents want. Some parents choose to let their child eat the entire meal after around 8 months. Others choose to wait with fish, meat and eggs until their child is has turned 1. In accordance with the parents we decide what to offer to the children during this first period of eating solid foods. The warm meal will be (coarsely) pureed for children under 1, after that we move on to non-pureed food. This way, children will learn to distinguish the different ingredients and again, the little bite the food has benefits their oral motor skills. When the children are ready we offer them healthy snacks, usually from 1 year on. This might be a cracker with a healthy topping such as vegetable spread, a little bit of yoghurt, dried fruit or cut up peppers, carrots or cucumbers.
For Our World, one of our pedagogical areas of development, we teach children to take care of themselves by eating healthy and sustainable foods. We want to introduce them to healthy food and that’s why we don’t use sugars and as little salt as possible and we prepare the meals only with fresh ingredients. The warm meal always includes fresh vegetables and fish, meat or vegetarian component. In the groups we eat together at the table. Even the smallest children join this shared moment – if their rhythm allows it. They will get their vegetable or fruit serving while sitting on the lap of one of the employees. Eating together is fun and stimulates the actual eating (after all, monkey see, monkey do) and helps children with table manners. We, the employees, set the right example by eating as well and making a fun moment out of it. We sing songs and make sure to pay attention to every child. Because we start eating together in the baby group the children are well prepared when they move on the next group.
There’s only one thing left to say…Bon Appétit!