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Food - It is usually a very sensitive topic in households with a toddler or a pre-schooler. Right from the stress that the mom goes through to ensure a perfect balance of variety, nutrition, appeal, and timeliness to the end purpose of its consumption by the child often turn out to be a very strenuous task both for the mom and the child, at times transforming the house into a miniature battleground.
My toddler was also one such kind, who was very happy-go-lucky the whole day except for the mealtimes. How much ever effort I put in buying the most fancy cutlery or cooking a wide variety of food with a colourful appeal, my toddler would just not be excited. At times, I felt he really didn’t need food because with or without food, his energy levels were the same. That often urged me to just give up the whole activity of making him eat altogether. On a serious note, I was getting impatient to the limit of frustration and often vented it out on him. At one point of time, I had switched to very simple cooking because I realised whatever my effort was in the kitchen, my son’s reaction was anyway the same.
As he started growing up and learning the names of vegetables, fruits, and different food items, I also started the practice of explaining to him the items served on his plate. Gradually, he started understanding his likes and dislikes. But, while I had given him choices in other things, I was very conservative when it related to his food. I had heard from other moms that their children were addicted to junk food and had developed problems, such as excess weight gains, cavities, etc. I wanted to avoid this situation right at the outset. Therefore, I rarely gave him the choice to select from his plate. Rather, I read up a lot about all the food items and the associated nutritional and health impact and started making up stories during the meal time based on that information.
With the passage of time, the inquisitiveness of my son started to grow and he started asking me about the ingredients used in the food, which eventually translated into how they were used or the recipe of the food. At that time, I realised that rather than coaxing and scolding him to eat, I should rather focus on how food is prepared, right from the scratch to see if that could create a different perspective in him. I started showing him different videos and pictures that would capture the story of the entire food cultivation process right from sowing seeds in farms or managing dairy farms to delivering packaged food on grocery store shelves. We also visited a few farms of corns, sugarcanes, wheat, rice, etc in the outskirts of the city to help him visualise the concept better. I was fortunate enough to see a difference in my son. I felt he had subtly started valuing the effort that went behind in ensuring yummy food on his plate, conveniently placed right in front of him in the comfort of his home.
His interest in the food related efforts was so aroused that he started to bring his chair to the kitchen to watch me through the entire process of cooking, asking lot of questions on what I was adding, why I was adding, and how it would help our health. With my son beside me, cooking in the kitchen also became a fun task. We started spending quality time together chatting and learning. Whatever I didn't know on the spot, I googled it and replied to him thereafter. Within a few days, he also volunteered to join in the effort and started contributing to activities like peeling the peas or washing the plates or spoons before the meal.
I had a choice of being authoritative and forcing my son to finish all his meals. That would have solved my problem with a bit of stress of course, but my son would not have developed the affinity he has now toward cooking and food. I am fortunate that good sense prevailed in me and I dared to redefine my limits. In fact, my cooking time has become an opportunity for both of us to bond with each other. My son also learns lot of things in the process and the excitement he has in explaining everything to his father on the dining table is a delight to the eyes. Those little moments in the kitchen with him are like ‘khuljaye bachpan’ for him. After all, childhood is a beautiful journey of unlocking the secrets and discovering joy in everything.