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A parent’s guide to weaning and toilet training, part 2

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

This guide was created with the support of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) to offer guidance on some of the common development stages that your child may go through, including weaning, food refusal/fussy eaters and toilet training.

This part will primarily focus on food refusal, fussy eaters and toilet training.

If you missed it, click here to read part 1.

Food refusal and fussy eaters

It's natural for you as a parent to worry about whether your child is eating enough food, especially if they refuse to eat at times.

Many children go through phases of deciding their likes and dislikes. This is all part of children’s development as they begin to understand that they have a choice and they want to make the most of this.

Try not to worry about what your child eats in a day, or if they don't finish a meal. It's more important to look at what they eat over a week.

If your child is active, gaining weight and is not ill, then it is more than likely that they are receiving enough food.

Providing a healthy balanced diet with food from the main food groups (starchy foods like bread and potatoes, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, beans, milk and diary) will ensure they gain the nutrients that they need.

If there is a fruit or vegetable that your child particularly doesn’t like, try to disguise it with other foods, e.g., in pasta sauce.

Don’t worry if your child is eating the same favourites for a while, just try to introduce other food over time.

We’ve included the ‘eat well’ plate below to illustrate the different types of food we need to eat and in what proportion to have a well-balanced diet (please note the calorie intake recommendation is for adults).

Here are some top tips to support food refusal or fussy eaters include:

· Eat together where possible so your little one can see you eating the same food, try to make these times enjoyable and sociable.

Avoid only talking about the food, other conversations can distract them from thinking about what they are eating as well as support their language development.

· Look at portion size and ensure it’s appropriate for your child’s age. It’s better to give smaller portions and give praise for eating some.

· Do not force them to eat and stay calm – just take the food away. This way eating will not become too much of an issue/stressful experience.

· Avoid having mealtimes when your child is tired.

· Where possible, allow extra time for mealtimes and eating socially.

· Avoid giving too many snacks between meals.

· Avoid using puddings, desserts, or sweets as rewards for eating their meal, instead use stickers or other small rewards as reinforcements for eating or trying new foods.

If your little one attends nursery, speak to their key person about any concerns you have. They will monitor your child’s intake of food and drink and will be able to share this with you daily.

If your child is refusing to eat at nursery or doesn’t seem to be eating enough, share with them what you are doing at home during mealtimes.

Together you could create a plan to detail how you will encourage their child to eat well, using a consistent approach (using the same strategies is encouraged) to avoid confusion for your little one.

You may also like to share this with other family members such as grandparents, especially if your child has some of their meals there (this is also relevant for enforcing other behaviours. Read more about this here).

If you feel your child is not gaining weight, then see your health visitor or doctor who will be able to offer further support and referrals.

Toilet training

Children are individuals and develop at their own pace.

Some children will control their bladder and bowels sooner than others. It’s important to note that this can only happen when they are physically ready, which includes the development of their nervous system to send messages to and from their brain.

Because of this, it is best not to compare your child with other children of the same age.

Top tips for identifying if your child is ready:

· They are beginning to know when they have a wet/soiled nappy and may tell you what they have done.

· They have longer periods of dryness.

You can begin to prepare children for toilet training by having a potty around the house and letting them see others using the toilet.

Explain this to them simply, in terms they understand. You could also share story books about using the toilet.

The NDNA recommends the following stories (linked to Amazon via our affiliate links):

Encourage your child to use the potty or toilet but if they are upset or seem to be having regular accidents, do not be afraid to stop and try again at another time.

Try not to make a fuss if they do have an accident, as this may make them feel worried and make the process more stressful.

Praising your child for using the potty or toilet or offering stickers or rewards may encourage them to use it.

But remember, they may not be physically ready so this may not always work.

If your child attends nursery you should talk to their key person about preparing your child for using the potty or toilet.

Together you should plan to ensure that you are both using consistent approaches and language. Consistency in all settings is key here!

In a nursery your child might forget to go so you could ask that the key person reminds your child more regularly.

Remember to take lots of spare clothes to begin with, including shoes and socks. During this time, you may find it useful to send your them to nursery in shoes that can be washed easily.

To keep consistent, share what you are doing at home for example, any rewards or star charts so the nursery can contribute to this as well.

Having regular conversations about your child’s progress together will support you in ensuring that it is the right time, and your child is ready.

If you are worried about your child, talk to your GP or health visitor to get some guidance.

Some children that may have illnesses, Special Educational Needs or Disabilities may find it more difficult to learn functions such as toilet training.

You and your child may be referred to a clinic for expert help. You can also contact Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC) for further information.


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