Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Daddy Magic: How to get your toddler to not stuff his face with food

Our toddler doesn't stuff her face with food. All her friends do.

Why is that? I actually stumbled on this one by accident.

I started handing her things (coasters mostly) to teach her how to share. I saw that a friend of mine was doing it, and his daughter knew how to share. So I started doing it when my daughter was younger.

This is what I did:

  1. Hold out item #1 for her, "Would you like this?"
  2. She takes it. "You're welcome."
  3. Hold out item #2 for her, "Would you like this?"
  4. She takes it. "You're welcome."
  5. Repeat for about 10 items.
  6. She now has the items in a pile next to her.
  7. I hold out my hand, "May I have one, please?"
  8. She didn't give it to me at first. I take one. "Thank you!" I sing-song the phrase and sign it.
  9. I hold out my hand, "May I have one, please?"
  10. Eventually she gets it and hands one to me. "Thank you!" I sing-song the phrase and use sign language to say "Thank you!" at the same time.
  11. Once I have all 10 items, I hand them back to her, one at a time.
  12. I did the back and forth process about three times every day. My wife got sick of constantly hearing, "May I have that please?" "Thank you!" "Would you like this?" "You're welcome!"

Eventually, a lot of cool things started happening:

  1. My daughter learned how to share, beyond what was normal. When another toddler dropped his hat, she immediately picked it up and handed it to him. She constantly looks for her baby sister's pacifier, burp rag, and bottle, and hands those things to us or to her sister, because she knows those belong to her sister.
  2. She learned how to be entertained with us doing a simple game of handing things. Even when she is with herself, she will be entertained by picking things up and making a pile.
  3. She learned how to sign Thank You before all her older friends.
  4. She learned how to say Thank You before all her older friends. The sing-song tone was catchy.
  5. She began eating like this, only taking one thing at a time. All her friends stuff their faces. She eats sequentially. This allows us to give her smaller portions at a time so that we don't waste food.

All of those are very cool effects, but I still get people who are blown away by #5. I trained her on a habit that carried over into her eating habits.

Is it magic? It's Daddy Magic.


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