Children and Mealtime Part 1


You can tell alot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.~ Ronald Reagan


At the baby café (where parents or grandparents hang out with their little ones few times a week in the neighbourhood to mingle with one another), one year old Dave is visiting for the first time with his mummy.   As first timer, Dave found the music and dance session excited. Come playing time, he seems overwhelmed with the new friends found and playing happily with the wide selection of toys. Mummy feels the same too, started small talk with the new neighbour around her.

After a while, little Dave is hungry and approaches mummy for snack.  Mummy gives him a biscuit and continues chatting with her new found friend.  Holding a biscuit in his right hand and his left hand, a pull train, Dave continue snacking while playing.  Obviously mummy is clueless that something is not right as she has seen others doing that and she herself is doing it all the time at home.   The person-in-charged shakes her head and pull mummy to the corner where a dining table and a few high chair for toddlers are set up.    “If the child is hungry, he has to eat at the highchair, feel free to use the toddler feeding utensils and bibs here.”  She looks around and realized only her son was snacking while playing.  

Mummy recalls that she has seen children snacking while watching television or grandparents chasing the grandchild while feeding especially in Asia. She remembers her friends complained that her children refuse to be strapped in a high chair. Even if she was eventually strapped, the kid would wail or try to escape.   There was this joke about a grandmother who took the child for a lift ride so she could feed him while he was focusing on pressing the lift button.  This has gone too far and I hope it remains as a joke.

It is common for Asian parents to stress over feeding little toddler.  To some, the child seems not interested in eating or it takes a long time, say 1 hour or more to finish a meal.  Meal time is war time where annoyed parents threaten their little ones with canes or harsh words and the ending is always not a happy one, with a crying toddler and unfinished meal left on the table.

We have an amusing encounter in the restaurant some time ago.  My one year plus toddler was eating by himself at a high chair with a catchy bib on his neck.  A grandma from the next table came over with a little girl in her arms and commented, “Look at this little boy, he is younger then you, he could eat on his own and why can’t you??”  After she left, another mummy came and asked us the secret of training a child to eat on his own at a young age.  She then told us embarrassingly that her 7 years old was still not able to eat on his own and the poor grandma had to spoon feed him with the TV on.  Another passers-by shared that his maid is taking too long a time to feed his children. At times she even has to beg the child to eat.  With all the comments and commotions, my son broke down in tears.  He thought he was the odd ones that did something wrong that attract the attention.

“In America, a parent puts food in front of a child and says, ‘Eat it, it’s good for you.’

In Europe, the parent says, ‘Eat it. It’s good!'”

John Levee in ‘Another Way of Living’, by John Bainbridge

It makes one ponder on since when meal time has been so complicated? We have seen current trends of family not eating together or TV is on during meal time.  The busy lifestyle of an urban family makes meal time together a rare occasion.  Fathers are seen eating late dinner after long working hours and children in bed when he reaches home.   Some parents are too busy during meal time, one is seen on the smart phone messaging with friends and the other was either reading newspaper of following the sport news faithfully.  There is no bonding during meal time for this family and worst still the children imitate their parents.    

“Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.” ¬ Anonymous

In the next article, we will share more on the tips for healthy family hassle-free meal habits. Stay tune for ways on how to turn mealtime’s nightmare to a real pleasure.

Pitter Patter Editor

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