As a mother of small children, I have made some interesting observations lately about my children's eating habits. First I observed that it takes the boys (and kids in general) forever to finish a meal. Why is this, I asked myself? I then began to catalog certain behaviors and patterns that I have seen in recent days. Maybe you will recognize these patterns and behaviors in your own children.
Aside from the ants-in-the-pants-up-and-down-off-the-chair routine, or the irritating won't-eat-anything-mom-puts-on-the-plate shenanigans, I have identified seven different social eating patterns that seem to affect preschoolers everywhere. NOTE: at times, all of these behaviors have been observed in the span of one meal.
This is a very scientific term used to describe the child who well, schmoodles his food beyond recognition. The end result is a hash-like substance that is not even fit for the dog. The child who schmoodles his food takes so much joy in burying his corn in the mashed potatoes, shredding his chicken, and squishing peas that he usually forgets to eat.
My son, Benjamin, is a tiny-bite-taker. For some reason, his mouth cannot accommodate more than a 1/16 of a teaspoon a food at at time. If I offer him half a fork full of food, it will take him three "bites" to finish it. Seriously, the kid is part mouse. The tiny-bite-taker will often announce that they are "full" before the meal looks like it has even been touched. But they know that they have, in fact, taken 32 "bites" thank-you-very-much!
The pirate is related to both the Schmoolder and the Tiny-bite-taker. The pirate is always looking for "treasure" inside the food. For example, both my boys cannot eat green beans whole. They first must open the green bean, find the actual "bean" part inside and loudly announce that they found "the BOOTY!" (Thank you, dear Husband, for teaching our three-year-old boys the word "booty"). As you can image, it takes a long time to open 24 green beans in order to find the treasure inside. NOTE: the boys eat "the booty" (::cringe::....how wrong is that?) but leave the "treasure box" (the skin of the bean). Go figure.
This child randomly breaks into song at the table and often gets joyfully stuck in "broken record" mode. Case A: At breakfast this morning, Micah sang: "SomeWHERE over the rainbow...mumble mumble are bluuuuuue....SomeWHERE over the rainbow....unintelligible randomness are bluuuue!" No one, of course, can deny the super-cuteness of this mealtime routine, but it did, in fact cause mommy to remind him to eat about 17 times.
The Zookeeper is more interested in feeding his plastic animals than himself. This child brings a menagerie of beloved toys to the dinner table and is SO attached to them that he CANNOT be parted with them EVEN for ONE MINUTE (!!!!!) The persuasive pleas of the Zookeeper are so convincing that the parents of the Zookeeper let him keep the plastic eating-delay-ers. The Zookeeper often tries to force food into his animals mouths or "help" them drink milk from the Zookeepers cup. Sometimes the animals even "need" a bath in the milk cup, thus further delaying the eating of the child. For the Zookeeper, feeding animals comes before feeding people.
The Bard is related to the Rockstar in that the child with Bard-ish tendencies will randomly break into a very long, very involved, very exciting story while in the middle of the meal. The story involves the child's entire being as he illustrates the tale with wild hand gestures, wide eyes, arched eyebrows, animated vocal interjections (ie. shrieks or screams), and perhaps even standing up in his chair. The Bard also often requires the absolute attention of his audience, thus preventing others from eating (as they are often laughing or choking after laughing).
The Hearty Eater
Though this type of eater is rare among preschool children, occasionally this child will spend a significant amount of time at the dinner table because he is actually (gasp!) eating! The Hearty Eater often asks for seconds or thirds! As mentioned before, this type of behavioral pattern seems to allude preschoolers for the majority of the time but with the right meal, at the right time, with the right amount of persuading, cajoling, and other various bribes, your child, too, can demonstrate characteristics of the Hearty Eater.