Weaning is a big, exciting adventure but it can be a daunting prospect too. These simple tips from fellow B Corp brand Ella's Kitchen it will help make it a healthy, fun and exciting experience for you and your little one! If you have any safety concerns, please consult a medical professional or visit the NHS Weaning Advice web page.
Ready, steady... GO? Check your little one is ready to wean before you start offering food. Babies are usually ready around the age of 6 months, but you should avoid weaning before the age of 4 months. Your little one should be able to sit up and hold their head steady, as well as be able to pick up an object like a spoon and pop it easily into their mouth. If you find your little one pushes food out with their tongue at first then just wait a week or so and try again.
1. Veg it!
Little ones naturally have a sweet tooth but starting weaning with veg like broccoli, cauliflower and carrot helps them learn to love veg from the very start. To begin with, it’s just about offering tiny tastes of single veggies in variety, so don’t worry about how much your little one eats in the first few days as long as they have a taste.
2. Switch it!
The wider the range of foods you offer your little one throughout weaning, the more likely they are to want to try new things when they’re older. From around 6 months, try to give your little one a rainbow of veg + fruit each week. You can also add a variety of other foods – try lots of different protein sources like meat, fish, eggs, pulses and soy products, and offer a range of starchy foods too – potatoes, pasta, sweet potato, bread, polenta, cous cous and rice are all great options.
3. Repeat it!
Not everyone likes a food at the first try and the same is true of little ones. They might pull a face or spit out a food the first time they taste it but don’t give up after a couple of tries. It can take up to 8 separate occasions before babies will accept a new food; so keep trying and give lots of praise and smiles when they try something new.
4. Model behaviour
If your little one sees you eating and enjoying a food, they’re more likely to want to copy and give it a go themselves. So if possible, try to eat at the same time as your little one at least some of the time, and show them how much you enjoy your veggies too.
5. Good in every sense
Children who interact with food using all their senses are more likely to show an interest in trying new food. Studies have shown that exploring the textures, colours, shapes and smell of food can help encourage little ones to eat them at meal times. Let your baby explore raw and cooked veg with their hands to help familiarise them with new foods. You can even tell stories about food to get your little one interested - broccoli looks like trees; cauliflower like clouds or sheep; and strawberries look like little hedgehogs. For older babies, make a picture on the plate out of finger foods and tell a story about what’s going on.
6. Gimme 5
Get little hands working with some yummy finger foods. From 6 months, little ones can handle soft finger foods like cooked carrot sticks or banana fingers cut to about the size of your index finger. Little ones love being in control and as they get more confident, you can offer more and more finger foods like other cooked veg, pasta pieces (penne is a good size and shape), bread fingers, hard boiled egg slices or avocado fingers. Once they’re around 10 months old, little ones can practice their pincer grip so try giving them halved blueberries or raspberries to get those fingers and thumbs working!
7. All foods are equal
Try not to reward them with sweet treats if they’ve eaten their veggies. This teaches them that there must be something wrong with vegetables if they need a treat as a bribe, and they may learn that sweet foods have a higher value than vegetables. We all know that vegetables will get rejected more than desserts, but try not to react when this happens.
8. Mini masterchefs
Little ones love to help you cook! Even toddlers can help with simple food prep by popping dry pasta into a pan or helping to roll out pastry. They may be more likely to eat a meal they’ve been involved in cooking, so let them get stuck in (safety first though – keep them away from the hob, boiling water or sharp knives).
9. Buffet style
Have a fussy eater that won’t eat veg? Try offering your little one a choice of 3 vegetables from which they can pick 2 to go on their plate. That way they feel invested in the decision and are more likely to at least give the veg a try. Don’t pressurize them to eat, but give them gentle encouragement to have a taste. It works well if you can sit around the table and share the veg from a serving bowl but that’s not always practical, so you can always show them the different veggies in the kitchen before you prepare them.
10. Family fun
Eating together isn’t just about showing little ones how it’s done; it teaches them that food is more than just fuel – it’s a time for fun, socialising, and talking about the day. We all know that stress-free mealtimes aren’t always realistic but trying to make them as calm as you can will be worth the effort. If little ones reject a meal, just calmly take it away and try not to worry.
The most important thing to remember about your little one’s weaning journey is that it should be a fun, although often messy experience. Embrace the mess, show them how it’s done and make it enjoyable to help establish a health relationship with food for your little one.
If you have any queries about the safety of weaning, including what size to cut food down to, please consult a medical professional or visit the NHS Weaning Advice page.