Let me tell you a little background on my toddler (and from what I hear- most toddlers)- She is picky & set in her ways and meal time can be frustrating & often hectic. In an attempt to feed her something other than pretzels for lunch I decided to make meal time more fun. I do my absolute best to give Anna all the "required" nutrients, proteins, etc but I will be upfront- I do not stress out if a meal is missing one. I know that we will get it later in the day or even the next. She is not filling up on empty calories, she is growing like a weed, she is healthy and happy.
In our family we struggle with protein- she will not eat meat unless it comes in the form of Jane's Pub Style Chicken Strips and ONLY these ones. DO NOT, I repeat do not attempt to give her anything else. (insert deep sigh from both Cory & I). She will eat cheese but ONLY in a grilled cheese. I thank my lucky stars that she LOVES peanut butter & lentils. Yes, a child that won't eat chicken nuggets or spaghetti loves lentils. Toddlers are a fickle bunch.
The best part about starting this for Anna was that meal time became more about eating and less about arguing. By making some of her meals fun and kid friendly (I don't do this for every meal) she complained less and was willing to clean her plate without being asked 20 times. In my book this is a parenting win!
Tips that work for us:
- Buy yourself shaped cookie cutters- stars, hearts, etc. You can find all sorts of themed ones during the holidays. These single cutters usually range in price from $1.00 to $5.00 for the "good quality" ones. You can often find sets/packs of cutters at art/craft stores in the clay/play dough department. Alphabet sets are an awesome addition to any collection.
- Buy cupcake toppers to spear their food with (as long as you know they won't jab themselves or someone else). Party stores have so many popular themes. Princess, Mickey & Minnie, Dora, Diego, etc. You can also find themed ones during the holidays pretty much any where but I buy msot of mine at Superstore.
- Cupcake toppers are perfect for the days when you just don't have it in you to "be fun", top the food with a topper and you're the bomb in their eyes. This doesn't have to be complicated or a lot of work.
- I add chocolate chips and M&M's for eyes and flower centres. Chocolate is fun & always a big hit!
- Get creative and when in doubt- look up ideas on Pinterest.
- Cut food differently, cut circles instead of spears. I did this with carrots and she eats so many more now.
- Buy fun, themed, plastic plates. Kids love them and they section the food for those kids (and adults like me) that don't like to have their food touch. You can find these at pretty much every department style store, dollar stores and Anna's favourite- the Disney store.
- Pre wash & cut up veggies for a quick go to snack for both them & you
- Anything shredded looks like hair and for whatever reason seems to be funny.
- Let them play with their food. Anna loves to stack things like cucumbers and carrots to build towers and my rule is- as long as she doesn't waste it buy spilling it on the floor she can build towers. It makes it more appealing. Using her imagination is so important to me, I often wonder what she's thinking as I watch her stack, steady and talk under her breath to her towers.
- Make your own meal fun. You'll be surprised how much more fun it is to have a peanut butter sandwich in the shape of a heart or a snack plate turned into a smiley face. As an added bonus your toddler will think you're "so awesome"... or at least Anna will.