A few weeks ago, I had an inspiration! One of my long-standing goals is fostering independence and allowing our children as much control over their environment as possible (and still be safe, of course). I've been pondering the "freedom of food" issue for a while. It's very important to us that our children regulate their OWN food intake right from birth (nursing on demand, self-feeding solids, no purees, no pressure to "clean their plates, etc.)
I've also long wanted to hand some measure of control over to our older son over choosing, preparing, and serving snacks. As we know, toddlers are grazers and more likely to require many small meals during the day rather than "three squares." How often I've heard other mothers in our group complain that their young children would prefer to eat a few bites, get down run around, then come back for a few more bites. Repeat, repeat. Not the most polished of habits, perhaps, but completely normal. I've wanted to embrace that tendency in our son, but the method has puzzled me for some time.
Dr. Sears and others recommend leaving a muffin tin or similar sectioned serving device available to a toddler at all times whether in the fridge or on a low table. Our refrigerator is a freezer-on-the-bottom mode, however, and the fridge portion is far too tall for a toddler to reach. While some food can be left for long periods of time to allow free access, others cannot (especially in the summer!). So after months of tossing the ideas around, I finally reached a rather obvious conclusion:
CHILD-SIZED FRIDGE. DUH.
Happily, I had a mini-fridge in college and my parents still have it. A quick phone call to my mother later, and the plan was in action! I had the perfect corner for it and voila! Further independence and lessons in responsible use of a refrigerator created instantly! We did install a lock on the top to keep little brother out once he starts crawling and until he can receive the same tutorial as M., but fortunately our little locksmith can still access his snacks.
I'm still "stocking" it, but here's what we have so far: water bottles, applesauce, cheese sticks and cubes, ham cubes, pre-cut veggies, and yogurt. I would also like to add hard boiled eggs and hummus and leave portioned amounts of crackers and granola on top of the fridge. After a week or so, things are working very well!
Here is this morning's snack tray:
I put this out about 9:15 and replenished it with bread and butter about two hours later. M. still wanted a small portion of what I had for lunch (potato soup) then in the late afternoon he wanted some ham cubes. He then ate a good-sized dinner. Mealtimes are much smoother, there is less waste, and our little guy is really growing up!