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Rebecca Wilson: How doll play can help establish positive eating patterns and mealtime routines

We have all been in that same boat as parents, when you say that food is ready and encourage your child to come to the table, to be met with resistance. It can be a frustrating scenario, however there are ways to minimise those from occurring.

One way to do this is to bring up the subject of eating at the table – away from meal times – through play to set a good example to our little ones. The Baby Annabell Lunch Time Table is the perfect game for that. Your child will automatically encourage Baby Annabell to sit in her seat and enjoy the food which she is presented. Whilst your little one plays you can subtly mention to them of what is happening, “look how good Baby Annabell is to be sitting in her chair at the table, trying her food” or “you’re very good at showing Baby Annabell how to sit at the table.” Then when it comes along to your meal time, you can remind your child about how well Baby Annabell did and how good they were at showing her what to do. I placed our Baby Annabell away from the table to avoid distraction, but in a position in the room so that I could say to my daughter, “look, Baby Annabell is watching and learning from you” which really encouraged my daughter to stay seated at the table whilst we enjoyed our food together.

If this role play is helping your little one to be more engaged with your family meals, you could use the Baby Annabell Lunch Time Table to be a part of a longer activity to do together. One way to encourage children to eat their fruits and vegetables which may not be loved yet, is to introduce them to your little one away from the eating environment. You could try roughly drawing some pieces of fruit or veg on a piece of paper, allowing your little one to colour in the food. Focus on talking about what colour the food should be and how lovely it looks, what is the shape, and discuss how you think it may taste or what is the texture whilst you both colour in. This is a fantastic way to encourage and excite children about the food we would like them to enjoy, removing from the pressure of them needing to eat it, and hopefully, the next time you present your child with these foods, it will seem a little less scary to them.

Once you have coloured in your food drawings, cut them out roughly for your child, then along side the food which comes with the Baby Annabell Lunch Time Table, pretend to feed your drawings to Baby Annabell in her chair. You could also pretend to eat these too – instilling and normalising healthy family eating environments.

The key to encouraging our children to learn to love their food and grow up with healthy eating habits is all about exposure, enjoying food together and offering a wide variety. You can practice all of these away from the dinner table, to help reduce the fear or dislike which may be associated with eating certain foods.

Rebecca Wilson