You are probably now, well and truly over all the feasting of the holiday season and if your household is anything like ours, you will have made one or two promises to yourself to eat a bit better this year, to include more veg, to sit around the table more often.

The truth of it is, family life is constantly evolving.  There will be times when doing the weekly shop is no big deal, cooking is a pleasure and the joy you get from the faces in your kitchen when you are dishing out the meal train makes you feel like a lottery winner.

The rest of the time of course, you are rushing around to get half the ingredients you forgot when your toddler ran off and had a meltdown at the supermarket, your dinners are making you feel like you are living groundhog day over and over and no-one seems to like what you've poured an hour into making for them and most of it has ended up on the floor or in the stomach of your family dog.

 The rule is with food, don't let it stress you out. You win some, you lose some.

This month we are looking at fuelling your little ones' with the right stuff.  It is the start of a whole new chapter, it's exciting and daunting all at the same time, and you will be amazed at how much mess one tiny person can make!

When our children were little we found that we started to think more about how and what we ate, it even informed us to make better choices that helped establish our growing family's eating patterns.

There is a lot of information available to parents now, more than ever before, when it comes to advice on weaning and feeding your young children.

You can learn a lot about what your baby will need as they start their weaning journey, and there are reels upon reels of toddler-enticing creations to spark your imagination and make food fun.

Our children can and will learn a lot about food and eating through us, as their  primary role model. Developing good eating habits will take time but if you are patient with it, what you set out in the first couple of years of your babies' life will likely dictate how they approach food for the rest of it.

There are obviously times and seasons of life where it might not feel like you are "winning" at this, but it isn't a competition, and it is all too easy to compare your child at every developmental mile-stone with what their peers are up to. Don't be tempted! Learning to eat is a journey, and every child's will be slightly different.

Once you've started the weaning process offering a variety of tastes and textures (age appropriately) will help establish a broader range of what your child will happily eat as they grow. And they will get food EVERYWHERE. This is all part of the exploration, as they use their hands and mouths to make sense of this new-found world! 

As they continue to grow up you can be more creative and playful in how you introduce snacks and plate up meals. Making food fun to look at, and involving them in the making of food will all help enforce positivity around eating and choice.

Eating round the table, or at least sitting down when your child is in their high chair is another way of reinforcing good eating habits. It encourages social interaction and you can start to model eating the foods you know will be good for them by eating them with them.

I remember when my four were all under 6, it wasn't going so well at mealtimes, there was a lot of getting up from the table, sitting under the table, wandering out of the kitchen and in general  a lot of fun-but-messing-around going on. I mentioned this to a friend whose children were all older than mine and she asked me what I was doing when they were all sat down (or supposedly!) eating their dinner and I said, "Well I guess I'm normally just tidying up the kitchen from the cooking, loading the dishwasher, sorting out the book bags in the background etc, etc" and she gently suggested, "Maybe just try sitting down with them." And of course, it worked.

They just needed me to be sitting with them, encouraging them, talking to them, enjoying their dinners, and being present for that half hour to show them that this was an important part of the day, one where we got to stop, to enjoy food, and to enjoy each other's company.

(And by this of course I mean, mostly we did...there were still a lot of times that didn't play out like that too!)

Whatever stage you are at on your food journey with your little ones, try to remember that it can and should be fun and interesting. You will create lots of amazing memories (and photos!) around eating. At home with family and friends, going out and about for picnics, trying new things and baking and cooking favourites. It's a journey that doesn't end in our childhoods, and instilling a love for good food and eating together will last long after they've left our tables.






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