She eats everything at childcare and hardly anything at home. This makes me feel like a terrible mum, Hanna told me! I cook everything from scratch and it all goes to waste, then at childcare I hear she ate curry!
Before we try to work out why your child eats better at childcare, you could perhaps reflect on the fact that this is only half as bad as it sounds. I always want to ascertain if a child eats well at childcare. I also recommend whenever possible that parents use a childcare centre that provides meals.
If a child is happy to eat a good variety at childcare then it is a good sign that they are not too stuck with food. I work with many families whose children hardly eat at childcare, if that is your case you can read this.
Children may do better at childcare because they may benefit from:
More often than not childcare centres use routines that enable children to eat with their appetite. This means that unlike at home your child may be joining the table while hungry. If you are struggling with your routine, read this. The structure of the childcare centre helps children to go through a process of socialisation and learn to play by collective rules.
It is quite possible that in an environment where the staff is busy with several children at a time, your child is getting less attention when eating. It turns out that this is often useful for children, who may be able to relax, assess their food peacefully and tackle it on their own terms.
I have visited childcare centres that allow children to serve themselves. Now imagine a 2 year old serving herself a plate of stew. It is hilarious for us, and it is messy, but how empowering! At a time where children are becoming more independent, allowing them to manage their eating from plating is best in my view. Would you serve meal from the middle of the table, rather than plate for your child?
Eating at the canteen is shown to help children become more adventurous with food. Birch showed that when placed with a group of children who prefer vegetable B, within 4 days, a child who preferred vegetable A, will choose vegetable B[i]. The exposure and the modelling from other children is in fact more powerful than modelling from adults[ii].
You can incorporate some childcare know-how in your family feeding adventure. If you find that you are struggling still why not download my free ebook, Ready to turn the tide on stressful family dinners? . It covers my top starter tips to raising a happy, healthy eater.
[i] Birch, L. (1980). Effects of Peer Models’ Food Choices and Eating Behaviours on Preschoolers’ Food Preferences. Child Development, 51(2), 489-496. do:10.2307/1129283.
[ii] Fischler, Claude. (1988). Food, Self and Identity. Social Science Information/sur les sciences sociales. 27. 275-292. 10.1177/053901888027002005.
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