Being a parent is more than just bottle feeding and changing diapers. Once your son or daughter moves into the toddler phase, get ready. Get ready for independence, temper tantrums, hilarious moments of failure, mess, and you name it. You are going to have to really step up your game, especially for the toddler mealtime battle. Take some time to think about things that will keep your little one focused and happy about the meal. I hope you enjoy these helpful tricks of the trade in getting a toddler to eat…
- Make up a Toddler Trail Mix so your picky eater can pick and choose to his heart’s content. Change it up as necessary from day to day and week to week—there are so many possibilities when you throw together a bunch of little tidbits.
- Play a game at the table like Simon Says. Pat your head, make a duckie sound, eat a piece of chicken. Boom!
- Put the food you want your kid to eat on your own plate.
- Put the food you want your kid to eat on your own plate, and then walk away to wash some dishes, saying, “please don’t eat this yummy food on my plate, I am so excited to eat it when I get back.” When child (hopefully) inevitably digs in, act surprised and make a funny game of it using exaggerated expressions and surprise.
- Hide the food you want your kids to eat inside an irresistible exterior shell. Try recipes ala Jerry Seinfeld’s wife (Jessica) in her book Deceptively Delicious or make up your own tricky recipes, folding shredded veggies or cheese and other nutrients into omelets, smoothies, and even homemade muffins.
- Make up a game where you have a certain food set out that you really want and you are going to eat it first. Many toddlers take the bait in “I’m going to do ‘x’ first” scenarios.
- Take your child with you to the grocery store and allow him or her to select something they’d like to try.
- Make your own Edible Arrangements style healthy snacks using fresh fruit, raw veggies, and adorable fruit and veggie cutters.
- Sprinkle a little sugar on their food. You can likely get a few veggies or an extra pancake past their lips with a quick dusting of brown sugar or powdered sugar. Hopefully it won’t be necessary very long, but it’s certainly worth a shot. If you don’t want to use sugar, try honey or another natural sweetener. (Check with your pediatrician first if your child is still very young.)
- Have fun with food coloring! Use a little food coloring to change up the mundane colors of some of your kid’s food every once in a while. Eggs and pancakes dye especially well, but use your imagination to make more fun and colorful mealtime creations.
- Take something they love, like muffins, and turn them into a whole new wonderful meal, still featuring muffins!
- When a child won’t eat certain things, you may need to resort to slight trickery, such as renaming certain foods other things to simply get them to try. It may be as basic as saying “This is Mozzarella” instead of “This is cheese,” or as complicated as changing its shape and your child deciding for herself that it is “dog butter.” Our nephew eats chicken nuggets every day, but everyone has to call them French fries. Whatever works!
- Opt for utensils that look like toys. Choose a set of construction utensils with yellow trucks or a set of Lego piece stackable utensils. Daughters may appreciate the fairy garden utensils or fairy garden dinnerware set.
- Play a colorful game calling attention to the different foods on your child’s plate. Suggest that everyone eat something of a certain color and have your toddler say what food is the color you suggested.
- Shish kebobs aren’t just for adults anymore—make fun kid style kebobs!
- Get your child to at least sniff the food. Sometimes smelling something new inspires the next step—tasting.
- Serve your child’s food in fun and cute ways. Try seasonal or holiday styles as well, such as a lunchtime Easter egg hunt.
- When age appropriate, allow your child to experiment with other eating utensils like chopsticks or a spork.
- Let your child eat off of the same plates the adults and big kids use instead of the little plastic plates. Under your close supervision, of course, and we aren’t talking about the good china here.
- Let your child feel like a big person by serving food big person style. The first time we gave our daughter a hamburger was completely adorable! It was entirely too big for her, but she loved it and ate more than we expected.
- Make mini pizzas with your kids. Let your little ones add their own toppings before you pop it in the oven so they are even more excited to eat it!
- Introduce fun lunchtime friends like a Hotdog Dog hotdog slicer, which can make eating way more fun and interesting for kids.
- Use the same “here comes the airplane!!!” trick that your parents used with you. Sure, it probably won’t work, but what would this list be without the old airplane gimmick? Modify for choo-choo train, delivery truck, speedboat, whatever floats your kid’s boat.
- Avoid the power struggle. Don’t make eating a challenge or a stressful time.
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