I receive countless emails, texts, Facebook+Instagram messages with the same question: How do I get my toddler/child to eat their dinner! Frustrated moms of undereaters this is for you!
Quick disclaimer: this is what works for my family and our personal experience. Please ask a medical professional if you feel your child may be malnourished.
I began my son Chandler on solids at the age of 4 months. Some homemade, some store bought. He loved it! Chandler would get fruit+veggies at the same time everyday. He was exclusively breastfed and my doctor assured me he was getting enough nutrients.
When he was 6 months old he began eating table food. I know that seems super early, but he wasn’t eating full on meals. Think: mashed potatoes and peas. With our hectic lifestyle I found it easier and far more economical to give him whatever we were eating.
I have carried that philosophy on today. Once Chandler could fully chew I introduced soft pieces of meat and snacks (his favorites of course lol).
Chandler has been exposed to a wide variety of cuisines. From spicy to exotic. I feel that the biggest mistake parents make when it comes to eating is choices. Of course if your child is allergic to something don’t give it to him/her. Making seperate meals or “kid friendly” dinners in addition to what you are preparing can be a hassle. Of course if you have already begun doing so, breaking this habit won’t be easy but it is possible. Here are a few of my favorite tricks to get those picky little eaters to eat:
“Hide” vegetables in smoothies. I have never met a child that didn’t love a icy cold treat. Smoothies are great because you can control the amount of sweetness and the amount of veggies. One of my go to recipes is a blend of low fat yogurt, spinach, banana, strawberry, chia seeds, honey and ice. You can experiment with different vegetables and fruits until you find a recipe that your child(ren) love.
Present meals in a fun way. I know, I know you’re a busy person. You don’t think you have the time. I’m not saying create elaborate Asian inspired bento boxes, but a little creativity can go a long way. Perhaps a banana smiley face on pancakes for breakfast. Or oversized rotini made into a shape of a house with meat sauce in the center. Chandler responds best to meals that are colorful and fun. I enjoy adding strips of colorful bell peppers and his favorite, strawberries to his plate.
Make meal time a happy time. If we’re on the go all day, we make it a point to make dinner family time fun and vice versa. We sing songs, we laugh, and we just make it enjoyable. The same goes for lunch. I try to eat as many meals as I can at the same time as my little tot. Children are natural copycats they love to do what mom and dad are doing.
Involve your child in meal planning/prep. Of course this is far easier for older children but don’t count your little out just yet. I have taught Chandler to take things out of the refrigerator. Dressings, vegetables, and other small things that are on low shelves. He hands them to me with such pride. It’s quite entertaining. Older children can help make sandwiches, beat eggs, warm things in the microwave, and more.
Our children are visual and they love to be included. By approaching eating with a positive attitude I have instilled in Chandler great eating habits.