Isn’t life just one big scheme anyway? Your parents got you to do chores and clean off your plate when you were a kid, why should it be any different nowadays? Especially with the toddler mealtime battle. The conspiracy theory here with getting toddlers to eat appropriate amounts of food is that sometimes their brains don’t always accept things they way they are presented. For whatever reason. A little change of pace could be the breath of fresh air they need to inspire their appetites and really dig into their plates.
- Create little food scenes in the style of Japanese Bento Boxes. I can’t get enough of Lunchbox Dad, who has an incredible lunch scene for just about anything you’d ever imagine or want.
- Make funny faces with the food you serve your kids.
- Make a colorful plate of food for your child, including foods in some of his or her favorite colors. Corn, blueberries, broccoli, tomatoes or strawberries—bright, colorful foods can be fun!
- Try a new snack cup that will give your child some control over the healthy snacks you offer. I like the Munchie Mug spill-proof, toddler-proof snack cup.
- Prepare the meal together with your child. Let him or her do a lot of the work so it’s more exciting and interesting.
- Make veggie bunnies out of raw veggies!
- Design the food to resemble a favorite stuffed animal, toy, or character. Like my puppy dog pancakes. We make “Lucky” and “Pumpkin” almost every time.
- Don’t save Easter eggs just for Easter! Dye hardboiled eggs around some of the other major holidays or seasons, or even just for fun, decorating them to match the theme. My daughter still talks about Easter eggs almost a year later and we’ve only ever dyed eggs once or twice.
- Let your child “cut” his or her own food, with your help of course. My husband taught our daughter to use the side of her fork to cut things like eggs. She loves doing this task that is usually reserved for adults. Help your child learn by holding the fork sideways and telling them to press down. We are doing this with eggs (shaped like a Care Bear) right now. My daughter goes into the family room after a bite and then runs back, saying, “more please!”
- Let your child assemble his or her own cute meal. Speaking of eggs shaped like a Care Bear, you can do all the cooking and prep work of cutting out the pieces and then let your child put the eyes, nose, belly, and other decorations on the bear on his or her plate.
- Make a meal out of one of your kid’s favorite books.
- Talk about the things you are going to eat in advance of mealtime. Discuss with your child why you are excited to eat them and how delicious they are.
- Reduce the number of snacks given throughout the day in order to ensure your child is hungrier at mealtime.
- Flip-flop mealtime every once in a while and enjoy breakfast for dinner. If your child is anything like mine, and pancakes are a huge hit, you will find a bit more success by offering them more often or when you really need your kid to eat.
- Grow some fruit or veggies in a garden. After months of watering and checking on the growth, your child will surely be excited to taste some of what you’ve grown!
- Fill up an ice cube tray of tiny tidbits and let your kid enjoy his or her own personal buffet. Try tiny snacks like Goldfish crackers, raisins, Craisins, edamame, sunflower seeds, quartered grapes, sliced strawberries, blueberries, tiny chunks of cheese, cubed ham or chicken, and other yummy bites. The variety is sure to inspire some kind of excitement about eating! (Tip: Get a tray with a lid so all your hard work in preparing isn’t lost at just one mealtime. Super easy cleanup!)
- Teach your kids about something timely and topical, for example, Earth Day, and then make a fun lunch or snack in the same theme, like a tree with grapes and pretzels!
- Change the presentation of the way you offer the food. Try corn on the cob instead of just the kernels or offer raw carrot chips instead of carrot sticks.
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