Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When to start teaching table manners?
Following in yesterday's train of thought, I'm trying to think of what changes I might want to make to D's eating routine. The Tripp Trapp chair seems to be working out nicely-- D seems to like it, it's nice having him closer in to the table, and it's actually kinda nice not having to deal with that massive tray anymore. Things are a bit messier (his high chair kinda trapped most of the food that fell so most of it wound up under D's butt... now it falls straight down to the floor) and he has much more freedom to move and wiggle around. I'm not sure if the last one is a good thing yet.
So now I'm wondering when is it that I should start teaching and enforcing table manners, or really just overall dinnertime behavior. There's 2 things I've already been putting my foot down on-- intentionally dropping food onto the floor, and (now that he's eating at the table) playing with his plate or place mat. If he does either of these once I look him in the eye and give him a stern "No!" then if he does it again I'll end that meal (if he's playing with the plate but still seems interested in eating something I'm spooning to him, I'll take away the plate but keep giving him food with the spoon). He seems to have gotten the message about dropping food as he very rarely ever does it (on purpose) anymre. Still working on not messing with the plates, but considering he only started eating off a plate about a week ago anyway I'm pretty impressed with how he's been doing.
But now, what about other things, like how he often starts wriggling and turning around in his chair in the middle of a meal? He'll still seem hungry and interested in eating, but is squirming all around while doing so, turning around in his chair or staring and even trying to grab food that's fallen to the ground. Also, he'll sometimes start playing with his food-- squishing cheese with his fingers, dipping his hand in his yogurt. I debate between letting him have that experience with texture, versus teaching that food is not for playing with. I hate to cut meals short before he's full (he gets really whiny when he's hungry), and I don't want to turn mealtimes into a struggle, constantly having to say "don't do this" and "don't do that." But I also don't want to set up bad habits. It's hard to know what to expect of him, to know what he's capable of and not expect too much (or too little).
So I'm asking you guys, when do you think it's appropriate to address different behaviors at the dinner table? How much do you expect of a 1yr old kid? At 18months? Two years? Etc. I'd also love to hear suggestions for how to go about teaching/encouraging these things. Thanks! =)