Learning how to eat is a big milestone for your toddler. Even though it seems like such a natural thing, a lot of toddlers may struggle with different aspects of eating. Here are some tips below to help your child chew their food and eat better independently.
Start With Soft Foods
Babies learn how to hold their bottles, and once they accomplish that, they are ready for their next big milestone, which is eating solid foods! Eating solid foods can come naturally to some toddlers, while others may be a bit of a struggle.
It is important to always start your toddler on soft foods that are easy to move around in their mouth and swallow. This is important because you want to prevent them from cutting their mouth on sharp objects and also choking. Giving your toddler soft foods such as apple sauce, mashed potatoes, and bananas will give them the chance to get used to having something solid in their mouth. Their whole life up until this point, they have been injecting liquids only and have no idea how to eat solid foods yet efficiently.
Starting them off with green beans and carrots can overwhelm them and cause them to choke and become frustrated with eating when you give them soft food, they will learn how to use their gums and few teeth to move the food to the back of their throat and swallow.
Let Them Make a Mess
Toddlers are very hands-on learners. When they are learning how to eat and chew by themselves for the first time, they are bound to make a mess. Believe it or not, but this is great for their brains to learn how to eat food on their own. Many parents try to keep their children from making messes or getting messy.
In the case of learning how to chew and eat on their own, it is so important that a child is allowed to make a mess and learn to put food in their mouth. You may even notice that a child puts their fingers in their mouth while eating and pushes food to the back of their throat.
They are trying to learn how to move the food around in their mouth and swallow it. Do not discourage them from this even though it can be messy. You will see that your toddler learns how to pick up food, eat, and chew very quickly if you let them get a little messy.
Showing Them How to Chew
If your child is more of a visual learner, this is a great exercise to try while sitting down for a meal. When you sit your child down to eat, sit directly, infant of them, and eat soft food with them, such as mashed potatoes. When you give them a spoon full, take a bite as well and exaggerate your mouth movements while they watch you.
You can also make sound effects to encourage them to do the same. Repeat this technique until the bowl of mashed potatoes is gone.
When your child is ready, you can also start eating peas with them. The soft round shape of a pea is a great item to help your toddler learn how to chew. Putting 2-3 peas in their mouth as time will allow them to mash the peas with their gums or roof of their mouth, and the texture is smooth enough for them to try and push down their throat with their tongue.
It may seem silly but teething toys are a great way to stimulate your toddler’s gums. Even if all of their teeth are broken through, this will help them learn how to move their gums from left to right. When they are chewing on a teething toy, this will prepare them for chewing on food.
Working their muscles and preparing them for real food. Teething toys can also train their jaws to move correctly and create signals to the brain that when something is in their mouth to chew and bite down. This way, next time they have food in their mouth, they will remember having a teething toy in and how to chew.
When to See a Doctor
If your child is getting older and is still struggling to chew their food correctly, it may be time to visit a doctor. Some doctors specialize in mouth movements and eating behaviors. This is a final step you should take if you have tried different foods and techniques, and your toddler is still not able to chew food on their own.
Doctors can pinpoint what the issue is and decide if they need to see a specialist. There could be many underlying causes as to why your toddler is struggling to chew food on their own. They could have possibly nerve issues, tooth pain, meter skill issues, and developmental issues that you might not be able to see on your own. As a parent, you have the instinct to tell when’s something is not right with your child. Always use your inner voice to decide when it is time to go and see a doctor or specialist for your child.
Remember that every toddler learns at their own pace and never judges your child compared to what you see other people’s children doing. Some things just take practice and learning to chew no different. Be patient with your little one and encourage them to try different foods that are easy to chew in the beginning. If you are seriously concerned about your child and feel that something is wrong, please take them to a doctor. Trust your inner instinct and get professional advice. If your child isn’t eating, always make sure to supplement their food intake with something nutritional that they can ingest.