If the timing is suitable it is lovely for your child to be able to join the family at the dining table – for as long as they are able. The rhythms of your child’s eating times don’t always match with those of family life of course. You will no doubt have found that flexibility is a great virtue!
The Montessori weaning table is a low table with a correspondingly low chair with sides. You can get any old table and chop the legs off, though the heavier the table the better. Chairs with sides are harder to get, but TTS do one for £27. Community Playthings do one that is sturdier and more expensive. We’ve got one of each and both are fine.
The nice thing about the table is the child can use it as their work space as well. They can use it right up to age 2-2.5, at which point you could pass it on to someone else!
Remember the principles behind the use of the weaning table:
- Everything we do with the child has the possibility of nurturing in them the sense ‘I can do things’ and ‘I am a part of this society’.
- Each meal takes time, that is just the reality of it. Give yourself the time so you can enjoy it without feeling rushed.
- Put just a little food on your child’s plate, just a little water in their glass/pitcher. It gives them the sense of ‘succeeding’.
- Have cutlery available but hands are perfectly fine.
- Accept it will be messy. The challenge is getting food into the mouth – doing it neatly is a whole different ball game! Parents find bibs with pockets incredibly useful for catching those odd bits !
- Finger food is fantastic – a stick of pineapple for instance.
- A choice of things on the plate means your child has to choose, to make a decision. That is a new kind of relationship not just with food but with their world! It is such a joy to watch them making distinct choices.
- Remember food is more than physical nourishment: there is the social relationship. Like when we meet a friend for a cup of coffee. It isn’t necessary for survival, but we do like a cup of coffee and a natter!
- Just as you observe your child to know when to offer a meal, observe their signals to know when mealtime is over.
- Put the plate away with a smile when mealtime is over. If you feel they have not eaten enough, you can offer milk to complete the meal.
- Try to avoid toys or items of distraction at the dining table. From the start we give the idea that the dining table is for food and conversation.
- Remember the goal is to introduce your child to a beautiful part of our culture, the joy of a shared meal. So try not to get stressed about it!