The key to a healthy appetite is letting your baby play with their food, and eating meals together.

There are three secrets to creating a healthy love of food in babies:

1 Let them play with their food
It may sound crazy, but it’s actually good for babies and toddlers to mash and smear their food around In fact, it should even be encouraged! Being allowed to make a mess lays the foundations for a healthy appreciation of food That’s how your child discovers food and learns to like it What's more, when babies mash the food around in their mouth, they’re training their tongue muscles, which encourage speech

So put a plastic table cloth under your baby’s chair, put a large bib around their neck, buy a cup that can fall on the floor without breaking and tip over without spilling, a plate that sits firmly on the table and a sturdy spoon Be prepared to change both your own and baby’s clothes after each meal, and keep smiling – even when your baby feeds you and potato sticks in your hair If it all feels hopelessly messy, remember that things will improve with time After all, when did you last see a grown-up – or even a 5 year-old – eating like a nine-month-old?

2 Eating together
Eating together isn't just about eating It’s also about pleasure, enjoying being together and social habits It’s not unusual for children to just pick at their food at home but eat heartily at kindergarten Why? Because they’re eating with their friends

Even if your child does not have the same mealtimes as you - this usually improves around the age of one - your baby can still sit at the table with you and eat some vegetables or taste something from somebody’s plate All this helps arouse an early interest in food and eating

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