As I pick up the remnants of a chicken leg and mixed veggies off the floor, I can't help but wonder if I'm doing this feeding thing wrong. After transitioning from just breast milk to adding “people food,” we’ve had some issues. I try to make sure my son gets the vitamins and minerals he needs to thrive. But I also want to get as little food on the carpet as possible and make food fun.
As a first-time mom, I have difficulty balancing the nutrition with the ease of preparation and clean-up. According to Stanford Children's Health, concurrent developmental milestones paired with children's natural desire for independence makes feeding in the toddler stage a fight waiting to happen - not that anyone who's ever been with a toddler during mealtime needs to be told it's a time of impending doom.
Reading through Stanford Children's Health list of suggestions has made it a bit easier for me to be sure I am helping my son with adequate nutrition and keeping my sanity. Here are three tips we incorporate on healthy eating and how we make them fun.
While cutting food, I make dramatic sounds and faces. My son is really silly so it doesn’t take much to make him laugh. After the food is cut we employ the old-school airplane trick. We have to make sure the plane has enough gas before leaving the airport. He gets irritated if his meal delivery is too slow.
Protip: Steakburgers are not toddler-friendly. Make sure that whenever your child has meat, it’s the right texture and is easily digestible for her stage of development and teeth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now says children should not have juice prior to age one. Although toddlers can have juice, it is recommended in moderation due to high sugar content. As we decreased his breastfeeding, we increased his water intake. It’s may not be “fun” but reducing the amount of sugar he is exposed makes life easier for ALL of us.
When I want to jazz it up, I add fresh strawberries and bananas to a bowl of water, so he can have the flavor to go with his drink. Most times he turns his cup upside down and pours the juice on the floor anyway. With water, I know he is well hydrated, and there are fewer stains on the floor - and that’s enough fun for me.
No one likes cold food but no one like super hot food either. Telling a toddler she has to wait for the food that’s already in her line of sight won’t go over well. With my son, I distract him during cooling times to avoid tantrums.
Playing games while the food is cooling down makes things so much easier for us. We use those couple minutes for a quick game of hide-and-seek or to work on his numbers and letters. That way, we're using our time wisely and he's having so much fun he doesn't even notice the temptation.