When our son was only about four months old, we had some friends who came to stay with their 2-year old son. For dinner, they got him some spaghetti in a tomato sauce. They sat him at the table with it but he seemed uninterested and despite some encouragement from his parents, wasn't eating it. The adults all got to talking and a few minutes later, our friend's son was happily tucking into his plate of spaghetti. Once the attention had been taken away from him, he just got on with it.
I experienced a similar scenario with my own son, now aged 1 1/2 last week. He likes to feed himself but still has some trouble scooping food onto his spoon or fork so I help him with it. I had made him something for lunch that included some broccoli. It's not his favourite vegetable but he does eat it and he liked everything else in the meal with it. I helped him get some onto the spoon and guided the spoon towards his mouth but he took one taste and spat out the broccoli! After a couple more tries, he was then refusing to put anything in his mouth so I just ignored him and ate some of my own lunch. In no time at all, he had the spoon in his hand and managed to scoop some food onto his spoon and into his mouth (including some broccoli). He was very impressed with himself and I clapped and congratulated him too. He proceeded to eat up all his lunch, including ever scrap of the broccoli!
I think these two examples highlight a couple of points. One is that around the age of 1 1/2-2 a child's independence is developing and becoming more important to them. They like to do things their way and having someone standing over their shoulder or making them the centre of attention is maybe a bit threatening to their feeling of independence.
Secondly, without meaning to, sometimes parents can unintentionally put some pressure on their children at mealtimes. We all want our children to eat well, healthily and to eat a sensible amount for each meal. By focusing on their eating too much, we can forget that mealtimes should actually be a relaxed enjoyable family time.
Have you experienced similar situations with your children? Do you find they eat better when they are left to get on with it themselves?