Feeding toddlers is basically a science. One day they will eat an entire carton of blueberries, they next day blueberries are “YUCK”. If my kids had it their way, they would eat hot dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (It is possible that has happened before).
I am no toddler whisperer and I am FAR from a perfect parent, but I do think the twins are pretty good eaters considering they are two-year old terrorists. Here are some tricks I use to get at least a couple balanced meals into their bellies each day:
Switch up the presentation of a particular food and bust out the cookie cutters. Make the food look new and exciting. Instead of always serving cucumbers as circle slices, cut them into squares or little hearts.
I found this sandwich cutter set on Amazon and we have had a lot of fun with it. It comes with a bunch of sandwich shape cutters, little shape cutters that can be used to cut smaller foods like watermelon, cucumbers, bananas, etc. Get it here.
2.Let them help.
The twins always eat better when I let them help prepare the meal. Does it take longer? Yes. Is there a bigger mess? Duh. The sooner they learn how to cook, the less I have to. Just kidding. Kind of, not really. But for real, they think its pretty cool when they get to help and are proud and excited to eat whatever we make.
3.Feed in courses.
If I really want to make sure my kids get their veggies in, I feed that to them first. They are so hungry at the beginning of a meal that they don’t even question what they are eating. I will give them green beans or carrots in a snack bowl while I finish cooking the rest of the meal. You can bet that if I fed them chicken nuggets, broccoli and watermelon all at once, they would fill up on the nuggets first not even touch the broccoli.
4. Serve buffet style or on a toddler charcuterie board.
This kind of goes back to presentation, but it works for us. Occasionally, I will cut up a whole bunch of different fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats and crackers and place them in containers on the table. Then I let the twins grab a plate and pick and choose what they want to eat.
Or, I serve all those different foods on a cutting board and let them share. Yup. Toddler charcuterie style.
5. Switch up the location.
Instead of always sitting at the dinner table, switch it up. Take lunch to the porch and watch the cars drive by. Try a picnic out in the yard. Raining outside? Carpet picnics are fun too! Head to the playroom with dinner and play “restaurant”. “ORDER UP!” is the new and popular phrase at our house.
6. Always include one food you KNOW they will eat.
Few toddlers are going to gobble up a plate full of new foods. Pair new fruits and veggies with something you know they love like macaroni and cheese or strawberries.
7. Utilize the television, fear and bribes.
Some days you just want your kids to be quiet and eat. My son never slows down. Its always tractor time or there is a bug to chase or a stick to drag around; getting him to stop and eat is a challenge. This is when I use TV, bribes and fear.
“Lane! Quick! Take a bite of this cottage cheese before the bugs get it!” “Uh-oh Lane, here comes the puppy. Don’t let him eat your food!” “Lane, sit back down before your sister steals all your corn!”.
Honestly, bribes don’t work that great for my kids, but the TV always does. A trick I use a more often than I would like to admit. I know, I know, eating in front of the television is a bad habit, but if they are eating healthy food it’s a wash, right?
8. Embrace the chaos.
Once I came to terms with the fact that they aren’t going to sit nicely, that they aren’t always going to like everything I serve and that it is just chaos, meal times got easier. There are going to be good days and bad days. Toddler life ain’t easy but it sure is entertaining. You are doing your best. The fact that you even care about what your kids eat, means you are a great parent. No one died from eating hotdogs 3 days in a row. If it happens once in a while, give yourself a break. 😊