I was talking to Simone Davies from the wonderful new site The Montessori Notebook. It's a site helping you to apply Montessori principles in daily life. I was mentioning my own daughter starting baby led weaning and how frustrated she can get with learning to eat. I think it's something that frustrates many toddlers and parents at mealtimes. She gave some lovely tips below which I hope might help some of you.
1. Try to set up things to remove as much frustration as possible - for example, a fork is generally easier for a toddler than a spoon. At first you can provide some help to get the food on the fork, and leave it for them to pick up/don’t have too much on their plate at a time/only put out as much as you want to clean up/have a hand mitt (or two) at hand for spills
2. Notice what triggers the frustration to pre-empt for next time, particular foods/tiredness/etc - keep adjusting for next time :)
3. If a lot of throwing starts, I calmly remind them that food is for eating. It’s often a sign they are finished so I show them how to tell me they are all done (baby signs here are great). And then I remove their plate in a calm way, “It looks like you are all done. Let’s take your plate to the kitchen. Would you like to help?"
4. If the wailing continues, I provide a lot of empathy - “You are so frustrated that it’s not working! Let me know if you need some help. Or would you like some help to calm down?” Not all kids like to be cuddled, but some like it afterwards.