One of the biggest challenges faced by parents, in Mauritius, Rodrigues, and around the world is getting their kids, especially the toddlers to eat their meals. In all likelihood, those parents who are now having trouble getting their kids to eat were most probably difficult eaters themselves!
Given this challenge that parents go through every day, parents.mu has put together a list of suggestions, that we hope you might find helpful and lessen the frustration you go through. Please do note that if the situation persists, you should talk about it to a paediatrician or a nutritionist.
They need to be hungry to eat
Get them to burn their excess energy and build up an appetite. Play with them before dinner, something that will make them burn calories, and get you to burn some calories too as an added benefit.
Take them to a nearby park, for a walk or a run. When done, give them a bath and they will eat. Make sure you don’t overdo it and they end up to tired to eat and want to sleep. You will find that if they have been busy, they themselves will tell you; ‘Mama, Papa, mo fin!’
Develop taste for healthy food early
For toddlers, a lot of the food will be new to them. It it best to have them discover healthy food now so that they train their palate early and become less fussy eaters later; toddlers are in an exploratory and experimentation phase : what you can do is explain to them what it is they are about to eat, even let them touch it (make sure their hands are clean) and put it in their mouth. Highlight that it is yummy, but don’t get too scientific about how brede susu is very good, the baby won’t get it!
Get everyone to take dinner together. If there are older siblings who are independent and eat by themselves have them have dinner with their younger brothers and sisters. They can set an example: to truve get Didi kouma pe manze trankil. The younger ones might be inspired by seeing their older brother or sister finishing their plate. If there are grandparents that live with you, have them also eat at the same time. If everyone is eating and showing appreciation for their food, your little one will catch on and be less fussy.
Take them outside
Mauritius is a country which is blessed with decent weather, which means you can take them outside, if you have the space, to give them their food. Make sure there are no hazards, when you take them outside, you can use the ‘wildlife’ that abounds in all Mauritian yards, that is ants, lizards, moths and so on. These can distract the little one from the act of eating, which makes it easier for them to eat. However, it means running around after them and you have a problem in winter when it is raining. If you have plants in your yard, then have them water the plants, you can get a small watering can and have them do some watering, which is also good for the plants.
Distraction, that is one trick that works, it is deceptive but sometimes necessary, you can place their favourite toy in front of them. While they are busy playing, you can give them their breakfast, lunch or dinner. Remember ‘get avyon pe vini!’? Some people are known to use the tablet or smartphone to help in distracting the kids, by showing them their favourite cartoon on YouTube or having them watch TV. However, the danger is that they may become overly dependent on these devices.
You must also remember that they won’t like everything you give them. Let’s say for dinner, there is ziromon, lanti nwar, rugay ton ek brede susu, and your little one prefers ziromon ek rugay ton and is fussy about the other stuff, hide them in the rice or mix it with the ones he or she likes. Again you are being deceptive and you may get caught out, but if he or she is doing something else whilst you are feeding them, you might get lucky.
Promise them a treat if they finish off their meal, something that they like, chocolate, ice cream and so on. However, they should understand that they must first finish everything that is on their plate and their fruits, then and only then will they get their treat. Do not overdo it with the treats by limiting them to only one or two, and avoid processed foods altogether.
Ask them what they like
They may be toddlers but they know what they want. If they ask for something healthy, go ahead. But if they tell you hot dogs and chips, tell them that they must first eat what is cooked for them during the week. They can get their hotdogs and chips on the weekend. As you already know, junk food and other gonaz are best avoided, or consumed only rarely.
Are you giving them gonaz before dinner or lunch? If so you are filling up their little tummies and they will not be hungry come time to eat. Give them water, and if you give them juice dilute it with water.
Sometimes you will lose the battle and they will just refuse to eat. As long they are not starving, you must accept this loss. It is a long war and you must not give up! Another option that could work is to demann gran dimunn. Grandparents and others who have older kids have been through what you are going through, and they will probably have tips and ideas.
We hope you find these suggestions helpful, let us know if you used any and if they worked. Also, if you have anything you would like to share please feel free to do so.