Monday, May 2, 2011

Infant Mealtime Basics

Much of these procedures come from the Montessori philosophy are used in Montessori infant and toddler classrooms.

When babies start eating solids (cereal, purees, fingerfoods, etc.), they are offered water at each feeding in a cup just their size. We liked these small plastic shot glasses. I bought them at Ross and they were the perfect size for Q's little hands to reach around, and I also liked that she could see through them so she could see the level of the water change (an important science and math skill--basic measurement!). I bought the little pitcher in the coffee department at Sur La Table (it's for espresso).

Initially at about 5-6 months we would put a very small amount of water in the cup. We signed and said, "Water," and held it up to Q's lips so she could take a drink. Eventually she started reaching for the cup, and at this point we knew she was ready to "drink" herself. We always put a very small amount of water in the cup because of course she was going to spill it or dump it on her highchair tray or the floor. We kept the pitcher close to refill (always signing and saying "more") when the cup was empty.

I also kept a small washrag close (the pile pictured above looks a little ragged from all the Quinny meals they survived!) and if she did spill water, I placed her hand on the washrag and let her help me "clean up!"

We only put water in the small cups until around a year when we also offered milk. Just using water initially helps to not confuse babies who may be doing some initial introductions to water, and later around a year when they are discovering whole milk. As a general rule at mealtimes we ONLY used small cups--no sippy cups at mealtime. Milk was given in a bottle and later in a sippy cup if it was used (either before or after the meal.)

Using a cup and being able to drink with very minimal spilling is a 1 year milestone. Obviously it takes LOTS of practice to build up to this point! Drinking from a cup encourages body awareness, hand-eye coordination, balance and also promotes cause and effect relationships ("if I turn the cup upside down water spills out!"), and it fosters independence.

We also conducted mealtime (at home) with Q only in her diaper (this is a Montessori procedure as well). This enabled Q to have immediate awareness anytime she dropped food or spilled water because it landed on her bare skin. Clothing and/or bibs prohibits the food/water from touching the child and often they don't even get the cause/effect relationship that they spilled something because they don't even notice.

After a year, Q could drink successfully with a cup. Some modifications we made were letting her pour water from the pitcher into her own cup (just make sure there isn't too much water in the pitcher to overflow the cup, because at this stage they don't know to stop pouring when the cup is full), using a larger cup, and also drinking milk from a cup. Now at 2 years Q only drinks from regular cups (except her water bottle in the car) and at meals uses even glass cups (glasses) successfully.

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