Common Toddler Food Challenges


 00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 187. I got to hang out with Megan from Feeding Littles to chat about common food challenges for toddlers. I actually just had a friend reach out and say, oh my goodness, it's like a switch flipped my kiddo turned two, and all of a sudden, all the foods he loved, he will not eat. And it's only meatballs and waffles. And specifically, party cake waffles. We have all navigated this with kiddos, where they love this food, and the next day they cannot stand it. And so how do we navigate this jazz? You submitted your questions, and I got to throw them at Megan one by one. I'm so jazzed to share this episode with you. Alright, folks, Let's dive in. 


00:00:57    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 


00:01:27    Alyssa

Hey everyone, welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Megan from Feeding Littles. Feeding Littles is an organization I've followed for a long time and a go-to spot you hear us reference a bunch for food stuff for your tiny humans. And today I get to hang out with the number one gal. Well, I guess there's two of you. Judy should get some shout out too, but today we get to hang out and talk about some common food challenges. So hi Meghan, how are you today? 


00:01:56    Megan

I'm good. How are you? 


00:01:58    Alyssa

I'm doing all right, thanks! Can you share with folks a bit about like your background and kind of what brought you to this work? 


00:02:04    Megan

Sure. So I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist. I have been doing this as an RD, I've been working in nutrition and research and public health my whole career. I used to think it was a short amount of time, but the numbers are getting up there now, as I keep getting older. I live in Arizona, and I have two girls. One is almost 8 and one is 5 and I had always worked in intuitive eating and kind of work with private clients on healing their relationship with food. And I wanted to somehow figure out how to bring that message to a larger audience. But I always thought it would kind of be with adults. And when my when I was pregnant with my first baby, I was nine months pregnant, and I got laid off from my job, a startup and it was traumatizing, to say the least, And I had no idea what I would do, and I couldn't afford to stay home. And I started just seeing clients and trying to piece meal some consulting while she was always with me. So I would teach classes with her like in the Ergo carrier. And I was at a birth center in Central Phoenix. And they said, do you want to teach a class on infant feeding? And I said, sure, you know, I work, not my whole career. And they said, well, can you teach them about baby led weaning? And I said, I have no idea what that's about. And so I did a whole bunch of research on my own and looks at, you know, the very limited data that was available at the time. And I did it, started doing with my daughter. And it was really a fun process for us. And so I started teaching classes locally. And just so you know, tiny, little mom groups and such. And then everyone said, you know what? That's great. But what do we do about toddlers now, we took your class, they were doing great, and now they're one and a half two. And suddenly, things are different. And I knew what to put on the plate, but I didn't really know how to encourage them to eat it. And at around the same time, my friend came back from a trip to Colorado. And she said, you need to meet this woman, Judy. And my friend's son was Judy's client when he was alive, he had passed away from a terminal genetic disease called SMA, at the time it was terminal. Now, there's actually treatment for it, but she was his feeding therapist when he was alive, and she was the only person that treated him like a real baby and came into their home and didn't treat it like a hospice situation. It was bright and tried to figure out fun ways to interact with him and kind of have him do baby things as an occupational therapist and a feeding therapist, And they just adored her. My friend adored her and said, you have to meet her. And so we met, and we started working, we tried to figure out how I could consult with her for a while, and realized that would probably not in my financial favor, because I would probably owe her billions of dollars at this point. But she, we formed Feeding Littles, we named it off of after the name of our Facebook group, which is just called Feeding Little group. I don't know where we even came up with that, and we eventually released a toddler course online and then an infant course online. And now we have a few different digital products, and all these other fun projects were working on. But It kind of just started off. You know, this kind of whim of right place, right time. We both knew we wanted to do something to help more people than our private clients and baby Jack stepped in and introduced us. 


00:05:10    Alyssa

Yeah, sweet, I just love the focus on like treating kids as humans. We often referred to them as tiny humans, because I think that it's huge that we recognize that they're humans. And I'm so it's so like heartwarming to hear that like that's what your friends saw in Judy first was just right. But she treated her kid like a human. 


00:05:34    Megan

Right, not like a dying child, which is sadly what he was. I mean, it was like, where do we see the life here? 


00:05:40    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that. 


00:05:40    Megan

Where can we celebrate where he is now, and that's, you know, with food is so complicated because it affects. I mean, it's our culture. It's our history. We have memories around it. You smell something, and it reminds you of something specific, And it's just so much more than like the sum of its nutrients and how what you put on the fork and put in your mouth. And once you become a parent, you start to have to address your own food issues, and it looks you straight in the face, because now you're modeling for your child what you hope they will feel about food. And that makes you realize your issues might be you might have some issues with it, you know, and that's really hard. 


00:06:22    Alyssa

Totally, well re-parenting is not something new to this crew. That's right up our alley. It's something that I think in parenthood, you're always doing whether it's related to food or anything else. You're like, Oh, I have feelings about this. I didn't know until this moment when my child is doing it, and I think it's such a key thing with food to note that it is it is so much more than the nutrients that are in them that it's a cultural experience. It's you know, when I need comfort, food, like I want grilled cheese and tomato soup. And I don't give a flying care what the nutrients are in grilled cheese and tomato soup. Like that's what I want. And that comfort moment. You know, this year, my grandfather passed, and just like the food that was around, It's like that comfort, home food. And I was just like noticing that, and how all of a sudden anyone's relationship to like what is in this food. Or am I eating enough, x y z. Was not present when we were like hanging out after the funeral. You know what I mean. It was like, oh, this, the food was about the gathering and the culture. And so I think when we're looking at food as a whole, I love that you brought that up that it's, it's complicated, because it's one of the things that we can measure right from the get-go, right? I'm presently pregnant, when this airs I will have a tiny human. But I'm currently 34 weeks pregnant, and I am. It's already something we're measuring, right? We're already looking at like, what's my weight throughout pregnancy? How big do you think this babe is? And then once they come out, one of the first things we start measuring is what's their weight. What are they eating? How much are they eating? And to then, of course, down the road that doesn't just go away. It's something that we then are, that's so ingrained in parenthood and can come up in a variety of ways that I think will dive into today. One of the biggest questions that I said like, Hey, we're interviewing Megan from Feeding Littles. Like, what questions do you have? The like one that came in the most frequently was how much and how frequently should my toddler or infant eat? People want this like quantifiable answer. 


00:08:35    Megan

So do you want me to answer that? 


00:08:38    Alyssa

Sure yeah!


00:08:38    Megan

Okay. So we're talking more solid, are we talking of solid foods, like solid feedings? Okay. So I'm hoping that you guys are all figuring out the milk situation. And that question is even very complicated when it comes to bottle-feeding, breastfeeding, right, Because everyone does it a little differently. Yeah, When it comes to solids, generally recommend at least one solid meal a day starting around 6 months and working up to three solid meals by nine months. That is a general recommendation. If your child is sick, or if they're teething or you are you know, we get to the dinner table, and they freak out because they're upset or whatever. You don't have to do that meal. That's the nice thing about infancy. As, you know, we rely more and milk and food is more about exposure, learning all about building up those skills as they get older and older. So the reason we want to emphasize those meals, though, is because without practice, it's hard for them to learn those skills and for them to their kind of in this nice little window at that age, where they're more open-minded to things. We want to catch them so that they get that sensory development oral motor. You learn how to use their tongue. They learn how to use their hands. And they also are a little bit more open-minded about flavors. Into toddlerhood in general, we recommend three meals and then adding a few snacks a day as well. Now this might be a little bit interesting If you're still you're still breastfeeding. Some people are breast feeding into toddlerhood. So sometimes the breastfeed will replace a snack, or sometimes your nap schedule just kind of preclude you from doing a snack. So like, if your baby, your you know 14 month old, was still taking two naps. Well, you might really not. You know, they wake up at seven, they have a snack at, or they have breakfast at, you know, eight well suddenly, they're going down for their nap at nine. It's like, doesn't. There's not a lot of time, sometimes for extra snacks. And that's okay. All that matters is, you know, are they getting enough throughout the day to support growth and development? And, are they staying hydrated? That's really what we're looking at. So in general in toddlerhood and really all the way up, it's kind of like how an adult oftentimes eats three meals and a few snacks in there for many families that's two to three snacks a day. We want them to have food access to food, every like two to four hours, depending on you know, when they're napping and such. 


00:10:51    Speaker 1

It's so helpful, the like general two to four hour range. I also found, my Master's is in early childhood. And I worked in child care for a while. And infant toddler is my jam. And I, it was wild all the time. I'd be like, hey, folks, if you can, can you send in more food? And they're like, how does that child eat so much food? They're so tiny, I think it can be really hard to wrap our heads around like, they're hungry again? Do you know what they just ate and have you seen the size of their body? The amount of food that a toddler can eat I think can feel pretty wild. 


00:11:28    Megan

Well, especially at child care, because they eat differently there than home. And parents, kids are notorious for being very inconsistent, So they might have one good meal a day where they eat really well at that meal. And they like taper off as a day goes on, or if they're in school or childcare, they can either really well, or really not well there, And they tend to need to make it up at other times. It's really frustrating for parents, because they'll serve them something at dinner, and they won't touch it, but they send it left over to school, and they eat it so well. But I think explaining why, just briefly can help understand that. First off in a classroom setting, they're eating with their peers. They're sitting oftentimes at a little table where they can see everyone, and not that we need to have a little table at our house to eat, you know, for our kids, but just understand that it's a social experience for them. It's fun, the pressures off. So nobody sitting there, staring at them and you know, encouraging them, making them take bites, They're looking at their peers and modeling what their peers are doing. So they see their peers eating something. And now suddenly, they want to try it too. And they're also in a better like regulated state, usually at that time of day, they often times aren't as, you know, tired or cranky. They're kind of in a good mood because they've been having fun. By the time they come home. Think about it later, they've saved up all of their emotional tension. Just for us. They might be over hungry, and they're snacking right before dinner so that they don't have an appetite for it, or they may be just be so tired that they're not interested at all. And it's very normal for toddlers to only have two good meals a day, very normal. And when, I shouldn't even say good, two decent meals a day and I, when I say that, I mean, like where they actually eat something versus nothing at all, It's very common for them to not do three meals. 


00:13:11    Megan

Totally. And I think, also for us in the childcare side, like it this is all that's for lunch. Like there isn't another option there is. There's literally no, like, okay, we'll swap it out for something in the fridge. This is it, And they learned that pretty quickly. And so even if they didn't want it for dinner the night before, if they knew like, well, I get a snack after dinner anyway, in a little bit, whatever they know at school that's not happening, you know, like they learn the rhythm and the routine, and that, like whatever's out there for lunch and everything served, at least in my experience, everything was served at the same time. So and you're right, No one standing over them. It's like, great. You don't want to eat your cheese today. You don't have to eat your cheese today, you know, like, if that's fine, and generally they'll eat it again later, and we would find it. This one girl just came to my head, who was one of my earlier nappers. She would like be like the first kid we'd put down, and she was on, they were on one nap at this point. And she, we did first lunch second lunch. So I would do like, offer their lunch to them. And then some kids like aren't going to eat before they go down very much. But then they would wake up, ready to rock. And and then we'd offered to him at that point, and they're like, yeah, ready to go. I was literally too tired to eat beforehand and just letting that be okay. You know, I think, again, with the pressure of what's their weight gain, what percentile are they, that it's so ingrained from such a, from the beginning for us as parents to be like, okay, but are they getting enough that there's so much fear that we are like standing over them, are nervous if they're not eating what we think they should eat, or maybe they eat less at this meal today than they did yesterday. And now we're wondering why, and is it something we need to fix? And there's so much pressure I think that it's is there as well. That I don't think any of us want to put on our kids at home. But that comes with the nature of the measuring of the weight from the beginning. It's so ingrained 


00:15:16    Megan

Well. And if I can just kind of speak to that about how we know our kids are getting enough, because I think that's kind of natural segue, especially this is especially tough if you had a tinier peanut child, and people constantly comment on and their size. And everywhere you go they say, oh are they only, you know, they're only one, no there two, you know, there's so much comparison I experienced that on the other end of the scale with my very tall children. You know, it's hard when people are commenting about your, your kids size, because we take it very personally that how our children eat we feel is a reflection of how we parent and the if we're doing enough. And are we good enough, And we sometimes have to realize that we have to step back a little bit. Your child's body is kind of predetermined through their genetics as to how they're going to grow. And there's some variation based on environment. But there's a very strong pull within them to have a predetermined growth pattern, and a lot of parents worry because they use the growth chart, or they feel that the growth chart is almost like this grade report, like for that for them, like a report card, that they see this number. And they think it should be something, I've even heard pediatrician say, well I want my clients all at the 50th percentile. It doesn't. That doesn't make any sense. The growth pattern like our growth charts reflect where your child's growth is in a trajectory compared to children their age, like mass populations. It doesn't take into account their own genetic, or even like cultural history, or where their parents are from, and what size, you know, their grandparents and all of their ancestors are from. It doesn't take into account body composition per say, like, you know, if they're really muscular. It's just a very general look at how they're growing compared to what we think they probably could be growing at. And that's what what we want providers to use it as one tool, not the whole tool. So they look at if they're on a third percentile, they expect a child to continue to be growing at the third percentile. That's probably where they're going to stay. If we start to see some pretty big dips and, you know, or hikes, then we start to evaluate what's happening in the environment. Is there something that's changing? Are they normalizing for their genetics? Some kids come out really small. They have very large parents, tall parents. And suddenly they shoot up and most, you know, experienced providers will know, like that's what we expect them to be, given what their genetic path is, or kind of goes the opposite. A lot of times, they are really large, larger on the scale as newborns, if you will, I don't like using these words describe people, but they come out, you know, like 90th percentile, but they come from small people, and they their genetics will normalize. So I encourage people to not use the growth chart as the only indicator of how you're doing. It's not the only indicator, it's just so much more complicated than that. And to work with your provider. If you providers not worried, I don't want to be worried either. There's nothing to say that your kid has to hit a certain number. The 50th percentile isn't the goal. The goal is predictable growth over time. So kind of tying it back to what we talked about. People worry, are they getting enough? Are they getting enough? Well, if your child's growing, as we expect, and they have good output, you know, they're going to the bathroom. You know, urinating five to six times a day at least, and there hopefully pooping at least once a day. Then we kind of, and their growth is where we sort of expect it to be? That's how we know they're getting enough. And sometimes it seems like they're living on air, and sometimes it seems like they're eating literally everything in sight, and that is normal for them. They will go with these with these phases. So try not to look at like one meal or even one day, we look at a whole week like, how's it going over a whole week for them? 


00:19:03    Alyssa

I think that's all so important. So much came up for me, I think first of all that's how we all are like, I don't eat the same amount in its day-to-day or meal to meal. And I think, giving ourselves grace across the board, I have a twin niece and nephew who, one was born seven pounds, 2 ounces in the other was 3lb 14oz and she has been a little peanut, her whole life and I have, I'm so grateful that my brother and sister-in-law have the pediatrician that they have. There was no pressure. It was just like, yeah, she's probably going to live in this first percentile, like, literally, a very tiny little nugget her whole life. And that's fine, as long as she's continuing to grow and develop, that's fine. And she learned from a very early age, like late infancy, that when she was done with what was on her tray, she would put it right on her brothers and peace out. 


00:19:59    Megan

She's like I dont want this anymore. 


00:19:59    Alyssa

Yeah like I'm good. I know that you'll eat it. He was like, this is a win-win. Yeah. 


00:20:04    Megan

And that scenario is really tough, because when you have twins. 


00:20:07    Alyssa

Such comparison.


00:20:09    Megan

Constant. People expect twins to literally be the exact same person. It's so strange. 


00:20:14    Alyssa

It's so strange. Yeah, for sure. So what about for folks if they are worried that their child isn't eating enough volume or variety? Let's go into both of those you touched on volume. And what if they're like, yeah, no, my kids not doing that. 


00:20:31    Megan

Well that's a really big question, because we have, you know, entire courses to help address this. But first off, I want you to, I want people to talk to their providers. I once, sometimes we have to tease apart is the worry coming from our own issues? Maybe, you know, in some  cultures, parents are very authoritarian with how they approach food. And so, you know, you might have Auntie or Grandma in your ear. He needs to eat more. She needs to eat more. She doesn't look, you know, chubby enough, She doesn't look this enough, but that might actually not actually the reality based on like what your provider would see as their medical picture, like their growth picture. So first and foremost, if you really, you know, if it's worrying you, if it's bothering, you talk to your provider, and that oftentimes can really help us, help us kind of put this in perspective. Addressing picky eating isn't as simple, I can't just tell you like I'm not naive enough to say that this is the everything. I do want to just give you a few tips. First and foremost, if you have any worries about how your child is chewing, swallowing, how they if they can't touch certain things, they're really struggling with like their sensory system or their oral motor system. Maybe they really, really struggled, you know, with choking on bottles and all these kind of things. That's something to definitely bring up to your to your provider, because they might not be realizing if it's still carrying on. There are a lot of feeding issues that need further evaluation and further therapy that you know, just offering them. Some techniques like for picky eating won't help. So make sure that you're you're kind of communicating. And if you're not getting support from your provider, get another opinion. It's okay. And it's also okay to get an evaluation from like a feeding therapist to see if, where they're at is not where they probably could be. That's there's nothing wrong with asking for help. We get really insecure. I think about, you know, like, if your child got an injury and they had to go to physical therapy, that's something that a lot of parents are familiar with, and they don't feel any shame about it's like, well, of course, everyone goes to PT when they need help with moving their body after an injury, if your child has an oral aversion or sensory issues and they need to go to feeding therapy, Suddenly people feel like it's they did something wrong. And that's not the case. It's usually that your child just needs extra support with a, with some of their systems. Support that nobody, no parents know how to do. We don't know how to do that. So I hope you guys can drop some of that shame about that. So say your child's just not eating super well, few quick tips. First off, one thing that people kind of overlook make sure they're eating with you. And I know that sounds so basic. And people are like, well, of course, duh lady, I know family meals, but actually make sure you're eating together, people will put down the food for them as we're getting everything else ready and kind of expect them to eat and even wait, you know, eat and maybe continue to eat, but by the time we sit down there over it, well, believe it or not, I know most of you probably would kill for, you know, a silent meal by yourself. But eating is actually pretty boring, And for a child sitting there by themselves at their tray, when it seems like everything else is happening is not that entertaining. They might they might shove down a few bites of, you know, enough to not be really hungry anymore. And then it's like, up to play because they're alone. So if we can sit with them, even if you're not eating at the time, say it's snack, and you're just not hungry. Can you sit down whenever you can with them? Maybe you change the scenery and do it on the floor like a picnic. Or maybe you just have a cup of coffee or tea, or something that you're enjoying with them. The more you can eat together and model that eating for them, the more they're going to know what to do. It's just a lot more positive for them. Another thing, try to lay off the pressure. And we've kind of alluded to this already. I like to kind of tell parents like, imagine if you, you know, you came over to my house, and I served you a delicious meal. But then I stared at you, stared at you as you took every single bite?


00:24:29    Alyssa

And said, three more bites!


00:24:30    Megan

Yeah. And I told you, I mean, think about that. First of all, what if you were full? And I said, you need three more bites, and you were physically full. Imagine how yucky that could feel like a, but I'm, I'm full. I don't want three more bites. No, you have to take three more bites and think about it. It's kind of arbitrary. Where are these three bites coming from? Why do we think that they need three more bikes? It's, it's kind of like this. We want to have this sense of control, because we are worried. It comes from a good place. But how do we know that their body even needs three more bites? And if it doesn't, and if they're full, what are we teaching them? We are saying, we're teaching them ignore what your body says. I know you. I know better. That carries forward as they get older.


00:25:16    Alyssa



00:25:17    Megan

We don't want them to ignore what their body says. We don't want them to ignore that feeling in their gut that this is off. This is wrong. We don't want them to ignore. I'm a dancer, and my ankle really, really, really hurts. And my coach tells me to keep going. But my ankle really, really hurts. Like we want them to listen to those signals. Our bodies are built in this beautiful way that they tell us when something's wrong, And it's our job to listen to it. So if we can hold off the pressure a little bit, and remember that we wouldn't like the same approach ourselves. So it's important you know, just because they're kids doesn't mean that they deserve any less respect in that regard. If we can remember that they, you know, they're great self regulators, as long as they don't have, you know, major medical or feeding issues going on. The irony with that is that when they feel like they have control over what goes in their mouth, they tend to eat better, they eat more because they're not fighting us anymore. 


00:26:12    Alyssa

Totally well. And then they feel connected too, I think, so much of mealtime, you're talking about eating with them and modeling it. But I think also like the connection component, we know that as humans, we all want to feel connected. And that's not, that also applies to our tiny humans. And when it becomes this battle, we're just living in a place of disconnection where there will be no collaboration within disconnection. And so, yeah, I think that when we can see it as a way to connect and be like in community with our kids, it's such a game changer for the collaboration component too. And I think, you know, we got a bunch of questions about boundaries. And I think this plays in there too. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. And like, do you guys practice specific boundaries around like how long a kid has to sit at the table, or if they have to try anything like, are there certain boundaries that are like, Yep, these are always things that we practice or, these are things we never enforce as a boundary.


00:27:14    Megan

Well so you probably appreciate this. I don't like the word never or always, those words are so  tricky, because I think they impart judgment and assumption that I know somebody else's family situation better than they do. I will say that we don't recommend forcing them to take bites in general, or that they have to try something actually, we really don't recommend forcing them to take, that's probably one of those nevers. 


00:27:36    Alyssa

The never? 


00:27:41    Megan

I don't know how much you have seen from people that, in my role, like we've seen videos and such of like actual force feeding, and it's really hard to watch. 


00:27:49    Alyssa



00:27:50    Megan

And again, coming from a good place, coming from fear, coming from, I'm trying to be a good parent. I don't want my kid to stop growing. And a lot of times, we get put pressured from our, you know, whatever you need to do. You need to get him to eat. You know, that's kind of the, the words we'll get. As far as sitting at the table. We recommend being realistic. First off if you put the food down, I'm sorry if you have the kid in their chair before you put the food down, clock is started.


00:28:18    Alyssa

Totally. Good luck. 


00:28:19    Megan

You are already losing time right there friends. And you might probably have already experienced this like, they only have so much time that they want to be contained. And again, think about where they're coming from. It's kind of boring, right? I have to eat all these times a day, I have to sit here. I really, really, really worried about my blocks, Like I just had to leave them. I don't know what's happening to them. I was getting really good at stacking them. And now I have to do this thing I don't really want to do right now. I'll give you a few minutes. That's all you got. Yeah, they're not trying to be awful. They're not trying to disrespect all the time that you spent in the kitchen. They just have priority to play and Learn. That's that's what they want to be doing right now.


00:28:55    Alyssa

Totally. And their nervous system isn't designed to sit still for a long time. 


00:28:59    Megan

No, no. And that's why they get so like motor-driven when they eat. That's why they're smashing, squishing, dropping, throwing because they like to move. And so we recommend when it comes to like sitting at the table as they get older. Of course, like then you can start to implement some of those things about respect and manners about, you know, your families, your expectations. Like my kids are 5 and 8, like they know that we don't get up from the table until everyone's done eating, but they're cognitively able to handle that because they can talk. And we, you know, we converse. And that's like a fun thing for us. And it's just what we always we've kind of expected of them as they've gotten older. But it's not what we expected of them when they were little. So a toddler like a one-year-old, two-year-old, like five to ten minutes might be all you get. And so we recommend you know, making sure that the food is ready when you put them in their tray. So literally don't put them down. Don't get them in there until you got the food. And everyone's food is ready. And that takes a little bit of planning, but it's going to make it less stress, like stressful for you, And then realize again, you don't have that much time. If your child is getting bored or kind of seems uninterested. This is where, you know, we say routine to soothe, novelty to stimulate. And novelty can be a huge tool in your tool kit. And it works with play. It works with everything. And actually learning about this from Judy has helped me in general parenting all the time. Because if things, you know, if I'm getting annoyed or upset, or my child isn't, you know, getting into the car or doing these things suddenly involving some sort of novelty, something you new and unique like, okay, we've got to, guess what? You know, we do a lot of, they're spies. They're spies everywhere we have to. We have to hustle. We have to crawl. Sometimes you will see us literally crawling to the door, trying to get 


00:30:38    Megan

out. But it motivates my kids, because it's different and fun. Yeah. And sometimes they need that with food, it's the same plate. It's the same food we had last week. It's I again, I have my blocks. I'm really interested in my blocks right now, But if you can bring play into meals, suddenly your kind of meshing their worlds you're making a little bit more interesting. And I'm not saying guys that you have to like, build a castle every time you have dinner, or that you have to be like a Pinterest like perfect everything shaped like a frog, like no. All you, all we say is involving one little fun thing. If your child is starting to, you know, they don't seem interested, or they're not having a great time. So that might mean you introduce a new fork, or maybe you, if it's like something you're a little bit, you think they're not going to really want to eat, give them a little cup and say, can you scoop this into the cup? Because, again, they're motor-driven. They want to practice their their new skills. So if you're eating a soup or something, and you have a two-year-old and soup hasn't always gone that well for you. Give them a little cup. Can you put it into your own little soup cup? Do you want to drink it from your cup? And it's funny how kids are a lot more likely to do something when, when it's approached like that versus like eat your soup, you have to try your soup. You know, they get to make the choice, and they feel like it's fun and they're involved. Suddenly it's a much different process for them. It's just like when you're cooking and you're making the recipe and you're tasting along the way, that's a little less stressful for you, because you're, you know, it's not this big expectation that you have to eat the whole meal. But you're taking little tastes. By the time you get to the food, It's not so scary, because you've interacted with it. Same thing with kids, once they start interacting with it and they realize, hey, this is this is not scary. This is kind of fun. They're more likely to put it in their mouth. 


00:32:22    Alyssa

Yeah, I love this so much. Somebody just this morning in our membership had posted about playfulness in parenting. And she was sharing. She was like, I kept getting stuck in getting my kid to bath time. And I like, was finding myself feeling like I'm trying to hold space for her feelings. I'm trying to do all these things. And actually I'm just annoyed that she is not going to the bath. And she was like, I paused and I regulated. And when I did that, I was able to see like, oh, there were all these bids for connection, but they were happening through play. And I was in like an all business mindset of like, we're done with play. We're going to the bath, and she was like, when I brought play into getting to the bath, and then you're in the bath, and she was a mermaid. And we were telling stories about her being a mermaid. We were able to wash her hair. She was like it was the most peaceful bath time we've had in a while, because I played with her, But I think it's something for us as adults to that we do have separate, we're, we're like, I will play in this space. And then I will be done playing here, and for kids. It's all about play. 


00:33:28    Megan

And unfortunately with food, because we've been taught, don't play with your food, don't play at the dinner table, you have to be polite. Don't play with your food. But it's totally developmentally inappropriate.


00:33:37    Alyssa



00:33:39    Megan

And guys they're not going to be throwing their food. And, you know, I'm not saying that like, let's encourage them to fling their food across the room. And purposely be wasteful, but it's more of like the interaction that allows them to be curious and allows them to kind of approach the table with like, what's going to happen now? This is kind of fun. This is different and unique. Oh, and I can actually enjoy the food as I eat it, That builds on itself as they get older. And then they really do. They learn to sit at the table and be polite and use their you know, napkin and fork and converse and talk. But even now, at my kids age, we still have fun. 


00:34:15    Alyssa



00:34:16    Megan

Still have fun when we eat. And I think people kind of get worried like what you know, are they going to be this like I don't know what they assume. They're going to turn into some sort of like, you know, caveman style person that's standing on the table or something. They won't. You're going to keep modeling what you want them to do. But what's so cool about it? Is it also, the playfulness makes you have more fun? 


00:34:38    Alyssa

Those mirror neurons? Yeah. 


00:34:41    Megan

Yeah, you have a good time, because it's like, I mean, all of us, there's a, you know, a child inside of all of us, and we remember how fun it is to do certain things. So it kind of takes you back to that. And, you know, we talked a little bit about how sometimes you have to parent ourselves through this. A lot of our, like number one I think, email that I get is you have taught me how to re-approach food. Like I am now healing myself, not even necessarily child in myself, but the me now in myself, because I'm showing it to my child, and I'm kind of rewriting that script for them. And now it's kind of I didn't even realize it, but it's happening in me too. 


00:35:17    Alyssa



00:35:18    Megan

And that's really cool, because that's, you know what we, people always say, it's you don't just talk about kid food and like, no, because it's really about all of us and how we eat and how we approach our bodies and meals and food, and how we feel about ourselves. It's way more than just what we're feeding our kids. 


00:35:35    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that's awesome. And when we're playing, you know, you're saying you're having fun, we're also coming back to that nervous system. We're relaxing the nervous system. We are in a calmer space. They are in a calmer space when they're playing, then if it's a stressful environment and we're producing adrenaline and cortisol, Yeah, it makes total sense. And I think it's key to note that you can set boundaries around play, And that it doesn't mean, as you said, that people are going to be flinging food across the room like that. We can have a boundary around that. We can set up boundaries around ways that we can or can't play at the dinner table, or with food. It doesn't have to be just like full permissive, free for all. 


00:36:16    Megan

Right. I mean, and, you know, sometimes people kids get really into it. They want to stay there and keep playing. And we usually say, after about a half an hour, if your child isn't eating sufficiently, We're kind of, at that point we're losing out, like it's not going to be productive anymore. And if they really need more than a half an hour to get a meal down, then we need to start evaluating why. 


00:36:35    Alyssa

That's so helpful.


00:36:36    Megan

If it's something like they're struggling to chew, or they're really, they're having problems picking things up or touching things and stuff. Then we need to see, you know, maybe evaluate that a little bit more, but it's okay to hold to hold that line as well. It's also okay to hold the line that, you know, we had dinner, and you had familiar food on the plate, and you had things that they liked, and they didn't want to eat. And then they asked for a snack afterwards. It's okay to say, no, it's not snack time anywhere. We just had dinner. You know, those are some. Those are some of the boundaries that we teach in our courses with that grace that, you know, okay, sometimes a kid just needs to eat and go to bed. You know what I'm saying, like they're having a really bad day, and they were crying and it like whatever they didn't want any of the food, because it was awful. And now it's like, I want cheese its. Sometimes it's like whatever have Cheez-Its and go to bed. But if it's becoming a pattern, if it's becoming something that they're always doing, and that's when we start to, to try to figure out where where we can draw that line, because kids do learn. Okay, if I don't need to eat anything, I'm going to play. If I'm always going to get a snack five minutes afterwards. 


00:37:37    Alyssa

Totally. And there's, I think most of that is our stuff that comes up with like, okay, Well, they didn't eat. And so now I have a fear of what's going to happen next, or if they're getting enough. And so I'm going to give them the snack. I like that you noted there's gray area there of like. Sometimes it's our mental health of like, oh, take this snack so that you'll go to bed, because my day needs to end. 


00:38:00    Megan

And for them too. It's sometimes a bad day. They just had a rough day and like they didn't eat because the circumstances were I mean, before, when we used to go out and do things, I remember every time we would go to a birthday party like in the evening, my kids would come home ravenous. And I'm like, dude they had pizza, they had like all the things. Why didn't you eat the things? And they're pretty consistent eaters, but they were having too much fun. They always ate notoriously terribly at birthday parties, as in like they just don't touch the food because they're having a good time. So I'm not gonna be like, nope. Hey, you didn't have food. That's your problem, because the situation is, I know that they're not going to eat well. So I anticipate when we get home here, peanut butter sandwich, go to bed, you know, 


00:38:39    Alyssa

Totally, totally. Yeah, I love that finding that gray area and noting that if it's a pattern or a habit, that's when we dive deeper. That's so helpful Megan. Thank you for hanging out with me. Where can folks find your courses and follow along and continue to learn from you guys?


00:38:55    Megan

Sure. So we have an infant course for babies that are learning how to self feed. And so that applies to people that want to start with baby led weaning, but also people that have done spoon-feeding and want to transition to some finger foods and self feeding. And then we also have a toddler course that we are actually rewriting to be basically ages 1 through 10. So it really does apply to a wide range, because it's really the same concepts. It's nothing dramatic that changes as they get older. You just apply them a little bit differently. And so they can all be found at We do have a larger free Facebook group called Feeding Littles. If you do purchase our courses, you get to be part of our clients only group on Facebook. And then we can also be found at Feeding Littles on Instagram.


00:39:37    Alyssa

Rad, thank you. You're the bomb. Yeah, thanks for hanging out with me. This was rad. And I feel like we got some good, tangible things for folks.


00:39:44    Megan



00:39:47    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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