Home => How To Feed Children => Children's Eating and Growth => How Children Become Competent Eaters
By the time your child is 8 to 15 months old, the goal is to have her sitting up to your family table and finger-feeding herself soft table food. As she becomes a toddler, preschooler, school-aged child, and adolescent, she will gradually learn to enjoy more and more of the foods you enjoy and manage the mechanics of eating in more and more grownup ways. It takes time - years in fact - but gradually your child will become a competent eater. She will enjoy a variety of food, and she will know how to learn to like new food. She will eat the right amount of food to grow in the way that nature intended. She will know how to behave at the table so others enjoy having her there.
However, your child's ways with food can fool you into thinking she is becoming anything but a competent eater. Often she won't eat much - a few tastes, swallows, finger-fulls, or bites. Other times, she will eat more than you can imagine. She is unlikely to eat some of everything on the table, but will eat only 1 or 2 foods. What she eats one day, she ignores another. She is unlikely to eat an unfamiliar food. Instead, she watches you eat it, looks at it, smears it, puts it in her mouth and takes it out again. She drops food, gets it all over her face, and makes her place at the table look like a disaster area.
Courage. Eat with her, and let her eat with other adults who are friendly and supportive and who enjoy a variety of food. Keep giving her opportunities to learn and don't get pushy, or it will slow down her learning rather than speed it up:
For more about competent eating for adults and for children (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see www.EllynSatter.com to purchase books and to review other resources.
Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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