Dads being part of kids’ mealtimes from a really early age is a great way to get involved in their daily routines and deepen early relationships, said Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, the 100 organic baby food company and father to two children, Ella and Paddy.
In the last six years, guided by his own experiences of raising his kids, and by his team of nutritionists and dieticians, Paul has grown Ella’s Kitchen into a leading international expert on weaning and early childhood nutrition.
“When my wife Alison began weaning our first child, Ella, it was the perfect opportunity to become a greater part of her first experiences. I learnt that mealtimes were more than just another opportunity for your baby to see, hear and feel you. Spending this time with Ella and later Paddy, actually gave my ‘fatherhood’ another sense of reality. I learnt to ‘grown down’ and see a new joyful side of life by going back to those first learning steps of eating new foods,” he says.
“But I soon learned that weaning can also be a tricky business. Both Ella and Paddy would sometimes not take to a new food at first, or suddenly not like a food that they had before. Some mealtimes were challenging,” continued Paul.
It was Paul’s determination that his children learn to enjoy healthy nutritious foods that lead him to design new ways of encouraging Ella and Paddy to try foods with different of tastes and textures. “I learnt that enjoying food is a multi-sensorial experience and not just about taste. This learning, borne directly from my own experience has become the primary focus of Ella’s Kitchen.”
Here Paul shares his own experiences to help other dad’s become involved in weaning their children.
Paul’s top tips to help dads get involved with weaning:
Grow down! Approach things from a child’s point of view. I realised very quickly that weaning was going to be messy so I chose to go with that and make the mess part of the fun. I used the textures of the food and plate/tray to encourage them to touch and feel their food. Ella and Paddy were more relaxed this way and enjoyed their food more.
Enjoy mealtimes as a family. This was really important to us. Ella and Paddy would see us enjoying healthy food and would want to try them too. I used to give them lots of big, encouraging smiles to show them how much I was enjoying the same food so that they would want to try it too.
Smile! Show baby you’re having fun too. Weaning can have its stressful moments, but remember to relax and laugh it off. You’ll soon see how much more enjoyable mealtimes are for both you and your little one – the giggles, noises, expressions and drools are massive rewards!
Get involved in mealtimes and have fun. To make mealtimes fun I played games to get her used to the taste, texture, smell and look of different foods. This really helped and we had a lot of fun together. I would have ‘lost’ blobs on my nose and forehead which caused lots of amusement finding them. And the usual ones of a train choo-chooing and an aeroplane flying into their mouths gave us lots of fun and amusement.
Grow your confidence. When feeding gets challenging, it’ll be tempting to hand baby back to mum. Remember that it’s a new experience for all of you and the more time you spend time together, the more your confidence will grow.