The Importance of Structure
Our first few posts have talked about some of the main ideas we’ll be talking about when helping you to be the best mom you can be when it comes to raising healthy eaters. Today, we’ll be taking it a step further in talking about structure, which is a tool parents can use in many different ways to encourage a child’s competence. In talking about structure, we’ll talk about what it is, why it’s important, and the ways you can do it at home. When we talk about ways to do it at home, this will also give you a sneak peak of future blog posts to come!
What is structure?
When it comes to feeding your kids, structure is the way parents act, speak, and set boundaries around food. This includes everything from actions at the grocery store, like what you buy and bring into your home, to what time of day your child eats their meals, to what you as a parent eat. We know- it sounds like a lot! But really all it means is that there are a lot of different ways you can add structure to your child’s day that will be effective and help them to be healthier eaters.
Why is structure important?
Structure helps kids to understand and respect limits and expectations with food. The best part- YOU set the limits, mom! Having consistent expectations and limitations- like, for example, setting the expectation that the family always at least taste new foods that are served- helps to establish healthy eating behaviors. Having some structure around food helps to guide your child so that they feel supported and empowered to eat healthy, and it increases their competence around food.
How can we create structure at home?
A lot of the tips below will be covered in more detail in upcoming blog posts, but these tips are great places to start creating some structure in your household.
- Have set mealtimes: Eating meals around the same time each day helps kids to understand when food will be offered and should typically be eaten. This doesn’t mean you have to be strict and that snacks are forbidden, but it does help prevent a food free-for-all, and helps kids to understand when it is appropriate to eat.
Consider what you eat with your kids: Kids watch what parents eat, and they tend to copy! So, if kids see you eating and enjoying healthy foods, they’re more likely to eat healthy – just like mom!
- Consider what food you buy- and where you put it once it comes into the home: If you have healthy food in the home, kids are more likely to eat it. The same goes for where you place food in your home. For example, if you have fresh fruit in a bowl out on the counter, kids are more likely to grab it for a snack when they are hungry. The foods you make available in your home and accessible to kids are part of creating a healthy structure.
- Set limits: This can be tricky, but when you effectively create limits on certain food-related actions, you can encourage healthier habits for kids. For example, you might limit snacks after dinner to one serving size of popcorn, or say that candy is a sometimes food that we limit to weekends.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but structure can be very effective at encouraging competency and healthy eating in children. What types of structure do you have set up in your household? Which of these tips do you want to hear more about?