TV dinners and smartphone suppers begin in toddlerhood for almost two-thirds of the nation’s little ones (62%), a survey from GrowingUpMilkInfo.com reveals.
An iPad a day keeps the tantrums at bay
While almost half of UK parents (41%) see the everyday meal occasion as an opportunity for family bonding, the majority of toddlers (69%) are often transfixed by a screen during family mealtimes and would kick up a fuss if the TV or iPad was switched off.
More than a third of those toddlers watch TV or a DVD (36%) at the table. Hand-held gadgets are next with iPads (28%) coming second, followed by smartphones (24%) and hand-held games (12%).
Tantrums (38%) and boredom (35%) are the main reasons most mums and dads turn to technology during mealtimes, with just one in twenty (5%) prioritising the nutrition of their little one at the table.
GrowingUpMilkInfo.com Child Psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson comments: “The family meal can be such a wonderful time for parents and children alike. It allows them to share their feelings, thoughts, and ideas through face-to-face communication, while also giving parents the opportunity to encourage positive eating habits and provide good nutrition to support this amazing period of toddler growth and development. Unfortunately, this research reveals that a high percentage of parents allow their toddler to play with a gadget while munching at mealtimes, which is a cause for concern. Although technology does add new and exciting dimensions to a toddler’s life, access to gadgets at the family dining table inevitably distracts children from eating what’s in front of them, reduces their desire to chat with others during dinner, isolating them from the dynamic communication of the family meal. This is a lost opportunity and a solid reason why it’s best to make at least some family mealtimes a no-gadget zone. After a few initial protests, your toddler will soon adapt and everyone will experience the full psychological and nutritional benefits of an IT-free family meal.”
A side of Peppa Pig with supper
Toddlers are more likely to identify cartoon characters than the food on their plate. Peppa Pig is the most recognisable, with three fifths of toddlers (60%) able to identify the cartoon pig, compared to just over a third (34%) being able to name broccoli. Thomas the Tank Engine is more familiar to toddlers than olives (16%) and avocado (6%), with one in four (42%) able to choo-choose him when asked.
When it comes to knowledge of toddlers’ nutritional needs, almost a quarter of parents (24%) admit they are more familiar with the weekly TV schedule than their little ones’ daily vitamin D dietary requirement.
Three quarters (75%) of parents admit to using technology to persuade their little one to finish a meal, with one in five (20%) mums and dads spending less than five minutes of the meal talking to their toddler about the food they are eating.
Leading child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton comments: “Toddlers have specific nutritional requirements that aren’t always easy to meet, especially when it comes to topping up their diet with important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D. Offering your little one a healthy balanced toddler diet can be a struggle at the best of times but, as the survey reveals, it’s only made more difficult when they’re distracted by technology. Parents need to be well informed about their toddler’s nutritional needs, in order to ensure their diet is being supported during this period of growth and development. Unfortunately, our toddlers don’t make it easy for us though, with the survey revealing a quarter (25%) of the nation’s little ones leave their fruit and vegetables till last on their plate. Because of this, it’s worth knowing there are fortified products that are easy to offer on a daily basis to help top-up their diets. For example, just two 150ml beakers a day of Growing Up Milk provides 73% of toddlers’ daily dietary recommendation for vitamin D.”
So do you rely on gadgets and TV to get your little one to eat their dinner? Do you eat with your child or at different times? It is hard when juggling a career and a family to make family time over dinner so maybe this is why we rely on technology? What do you think?