How to Set the Table for Baby
You might say it sounds a little ‘too much’ to prepare the table every time your baby eats but mealtimes are a very important learning opportunity for little ones. It is a time where you, your baby and possibly the rest of the family, share a moment on the same eye-level. Your baby is engaged, interested and part of an important social occasion. Here are some ideas to help you create a valuable learning experience.
It’s time to feed your hungry baby and they are using all the cues they know to let you know they want food. If you’ve experienced the dreaded ‘hungry baby’ you’ll know that food needs to go in as soon as possible so it helps to have everything prepared. This might mean cooking and freezing food well in advance or finishing cooking 10 minutes early so hot food can cool down in time. For some families, it helps to make a meal plan to ensure a varied diet and to create a quick shopping list. My First Flavours from the UK make some really nice wipe clean planners you can reuse each week.
I’m always asking the parents who attend my ‘Introducing Baby to Solid Food’ workshop to place an open cup on the table or tray from the very first time you introduce solid food.
The reason for this is because around 6 months of age children start to create associations and relationships between objects. As the concept of eating is completely new, it’s a great time to establish associations like ‘when we eat, we drink from a cup’. Once babies are set in their feeding routine it can be challenging to start to introduce new things so having a cup there from the beginning, even if it is empty, it a great way for baby to explore and get to know this new object.
One of the key skills related to self-feeding is gripping. It seems so abstract to think that at one point in our lives we even had to learn the simple task of closing our hand around an object. Thankfully, there are some great activities and products out there that can help little ones practice this skill (more on this in my next post). Allowing babies to hold a spoon during mealtimes not only lets them practice holding, passing, gripping and manipulating it also creates another association – when we eat, we use tools!
So, the table is set with a spoon and a cup and food is cooling down in the kitchen, now it’s time to protect those lovely clothes (the baby’s, not yours!). Find a bib that covers everything you wish to keep clean. I’m a big fan of bibs with sleeves because I find they offer the best protection. You’ll also want a bib you can wash easily and will dry fast because you’ll be reusing as often as possible. I really like Bibetta bibs because they are made from neoprene - wetsuit material, they also offer a fold out pocket that catches the food that doesn’t make it into the mouth. Once covered, you’re ready to go!
As your baby grows older you can involve them in setting the table. It becomes a shared responsibility and one that many young children are proud to be part of.