Welcome to YTF Community, a place to safely share in the challenges and joys of feeding our families. If you’re looking for recipes, feel free to go right to the home page of yummytoddlerfood.com.

While I really want to tell you about these SO delicious Cinnamon Muffins (the flavor is like apple + Snickerdoodle) that I made yesterday and then the kids and I devoured (they didn’t involve chocolate so I wasn’t sure!), I am actually here to share a quick story of releasing some guilt. Because I know I need as many examples of other parents doing that as I can get, and I hope it’s useful for some of you.

Book open at dinner table with food next to it.

All of my friend group text threads the past two weeks have, at one point or another, gotten stuck on dynamics at the dinner table. In particular, the things we’re doing to help everyone and everything be just a little bit calmer. Because I think the start of the school year has been a big disrupter (not shocking) and also, there are just phases of life where we need to adjust and respond when things aren’t working so well.

Which brought up the fact that for the past few months, my son has been asking to be read to during meals. During dinner, I’ve taken a pretty firm stance against this because I want to be able to eat my food and chat with my other kids, but it’s become a regular habit at breakfast, at bedtime, and whenever it’s just the two of us. (Or honestly, he sometimes will wait until everyone else is done eating so that he can eat his food and listen to a book. Sweet kid.)

And I had been feeling SO guilty about it.

When I was a new mom, I remember clearly reading and hearing that kids should mostly eat without distractions so they have more of a chance to listen to their hunger and fullness cues. Which I took to mean to limit meals with screens and any other “distraction” that might pull their focus away from their food and their body. But I recently realized I was taking that advice very literally—and was feeling monumental guilt every single time I read to my son during a meal or snack. (And also when he sometimes asks to have his Saturday breakfast while watching Paw Patrol.)

I do agree that it’s (obviously!) great to be able to listen to our bodies really clearly and I try really hard to help preserve that in my kids as they grow and are bombarded with external messages about food. And I acknowledge that it can be easier to stop eating or to keep eating more in tune with our bodies when we’re not doing other things at the same time simply since our attention is split.

But it’s SO very normal to eat and talk to others, to eat while keeping an eye on what’s going on around you, to eat with music playing, and to eat with life happening around you. So to try to say that any of that is categorically “bad” is missing the context of our lives. It’s missing the reality that we don’t eat in a quiet bubble. (I sometimes wish we could though!)

Two days ago, it occurred to me that this advice to limit distractions so kids can eat just until they’re full and immediately stop is classic women’s magazine advice—which is usually coming from a place of having a certain size body (smaller) or eating less. It’s been long enough ago that I first internalized this messaging related to kids and distractions at meals that I am not now sure that it is coming from a place of true concern for the developmental needs of little kids.

(To be clear, I think that advice for adults is missing all the context, too!)

For my son, reading is comfort. It’s connection. And when he needs either of those things, reading together offers it—and doing it during a meal means that he might be calm and feel safe enough to eat as much as he needs. We often read in the morning with breakfast and with his bedtime snack at the end of the day, which are the two times in the day that he craves snuggles and being really together.

I already know I will remember this phase really fondly. I mean, he’s almost five. I am unsure of how much longer he’ll even want me to do this, but I hope (for both of us!) it’s a while longer.

These little rituals that allow our kids to feel safety around food are beneficial. They are good. And we have to remember to put any feeding advice we see or hear from others into the context in which they’re happening.

We don’t have to let yet another thing make us feel badly about feeding our kids. It’s already hard enough.

(I would love to hear how you think of screens, devices, books, and more during meals. Have you heard this advice? I’d love to hear, so comment below.)

Related Products

Share it with the world


Filed Under

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *