Thursday, August 8, 2013

The circus that is mealtime with toddlers

Meals with kids are, well, let's say interesting. Maybe the whole three ring circus that is mealtime with young children will be another post for another time. For now, let's see what's in ring number one: getting toddlers to eat.

Menu selection should be fairly straight forward. The good ol' Canada's Food Guide (I'm sure there's an equivalent in your region or country) offers many options to have a well-balanced diet from the four major food groups. But we all know it doesn't work that way. Kids can get finicky, so we usually stick to our precious little ones' favourites. Of course, as soon as you cook their favourite, they don't like it.

I love those magazines that have "16 fun ways to make your kids eat" articles. They are one way to make parents regurgitate their meal. Sorry, I didn't go to culinary arts school. I don't have a team of assistant chefs spending hours prepping things. And I'm not a graphic designer who can photo edit the already near-perfect creations. OK, my wife is a graphic designer, so maybe that doesn't fit. But you get the point.

Just for argument's sake, let's assume I did have the time and skill. They are usually fun little animals or bugs we can create with our food. Seriously? Toddlers play with animals and more often than not scream "BUG!" if one comes close to them. Not the best choice.

Instead of engaging in the battle of wills (all the time), we've relaxed our theory of eating a fair bit with each subsequent child (we have four if you're keeping score). We have somewhat of a hybrid approach to getting our toddler to eat. It's a combination of realizing they will get a balance diet over time, maybe just not all in the same sitting like we do and should as adults; they really will eat when they are hungry enough; bribing them does work in the short term, and I do realize we're probably leading to therapy-worthy issues in the future; and we're OK with doing absolutely bizarre things to get the toddler to eat.

Our list of bizarre behaviour includes:
  • The classic airplane. A current favourite with our 2 year old.
  • Trains. Thank you Thomas the Tank Engine for offering a wide variety of characters to go through the tunnel. Variety is the spice of life.
  • Cars, especially Lightning McQueen and 'Mater.
  • Strawberry jam. When our son was young he would not eat his cereal without strawberries. When they weren't in season we tried strawberry jam. It worked. Mostly.
  • Faking them out - option 1. "Look, daddy will eat some," and then pretend to eat a spoonful. Really sell it with an emphatic "Mmmm!"
  • Faking them out - option 2. When  you know they want something else at the table, pretend to put in their bowl and mix it in. Unfortunately, you get away with this only once, maybe twice. Their taste buds can tell they've been duped.
  • Peer pressure. Get the older ones to say they like it. Of course, that one can back fire when the older ones complain they don't like something. All of a sudden no one likes it, even if it's usually a favourite or the younger ones haven't even tasted it yet.
  • Reverse psychology. "You don't like chicken do you?"
  • And perhaps the most bizarre, and a hit for two kids in a row, having the food talk to the toddler. That's right. Talking food gets eaten. I don't know why it works, but my wife is some sort of culinary ventriloquist. First, the food needs to get the toddler's attention, "Um, excuse me. I want to see your teeth. Can I come visit your teeth?" Like she's under some sort of hypnotic spell, the toddler opens her mouth ready to oblige the food's request. The food lets out a little "ouch" with the first chew, and for some reason this doesn't horrify the toddler; it excites her. Should I be concerned about that? Then of course, other pieces of food want to join the first, and the toddler is more than happy to oblige. Again, I have no idea why that works, but I'm thankful it does on a regular basis.
What sort of bizarre circus acts do you perform to get your toddler to eat?

1 comment:

  1. The last point made me laugh out loud!!!! I guess I can add on to my list of titles...wife, mom, graphic designer, culinary ventriloquist!!!