Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Supporting Natural Movement - Meal Time

Supporting the child's intrinsic need to move in their own way at the own time is an important goal for us at Tumbleweed in the development of the whole child.  At all times we consider how can they do for themselves while always setting themselves up for success.   Many sources that I have read talk about offering solids to children as they are seated, but for me that seems counter-intuitive.  We were constantly struggling with the unnatural feeling of holding an infant in our laps who is reaching for food, yet not feeling comfortable, because we are supporting their body. How can I support the natural movement and motivation of a child while putting them in an unnatural position, especially one that I have assisted them in achieving?  The biggest discovery we have made allowing children to eat while on their belly.  we are best able to use meal times to support our goals to maximize each child's comfort in natural movements, sense of ownership over eating, and identity as a part of a community.

My goal in feeding an infant is allowing them to get into their most comfortable position.  We use no chairs in the classroom until they are able to get into one on their own.  This usually follows their ability to get into a seated position unassisted, which means we often have children who are not ready to sit up yet are eating solids. Our solution for this at Tumbleweeds is offering food to infants who can roll over on their belly as they are laying on the floor.  Their body is supported, they got into the position on their own, they have their hands available and feel comfortable.  For mobile infants I often set up our meal space in a part of our classroom and invite them to come over on their own.  Once they are there I place a small amount of food before them and they are able to feed themselves.
This has been a natural evolution for us in our explorations in Baby Led Weaning.

I have found such joy in using this position for feeding both in observing the children and experiencing it together.  Since the basic need of their body is met and they are comfortable I notice more self interest in food, showing of preferences for certain things and refinement of hand eye coordination and motor control.  These are the reasons that I have chosen to feed whole foods to the children, versus purees, because it gives the children a true view of the foods they are trying.  They learn to love foods for what they are and are in the process of developing their own taste and preferences.  There is so much joy in their self knowledge of food.  Core Parenting recently did a wonderful blog about the joy of food.  Check it out to find some great ideas!

Yet, as always, the children have taught me things as well.  Often there is more than one infant enjoying their food together.  During these moments they watch each other, smile and mimic movement and sounds.  This shouldn't surprise me, because this happens often during play.  Our meal times have been an enjoyable, communal experience.  And I call them meal times for that exact reason.  I am not feeding the children.  They are enjoying a meal together and if they are eating alone I join them.
When we allow them to feel secure in a natural position they have gotten into themselves, then they are able the freedom to explore food and choose for themselves. This is a theme that we carry through out our day.  In caregiving activities, play and social moments.   These are moments to cherish when the child feels centered and able to do for themselves yet know we are there the moment they need us.


  1. Interesting thing to try - sounds very logical!

    1. I would love to know how it works for you! I'm glad it was thought provoking.