These two words can evoke feelings of dread in many parents. The toddler years are very active years, and when it comes to eating, there are several distractions that can get in the way. One distraction that seems to top the list, and can be extremely frustrating, is the “play-all-day” syndrome, where, even if your child is hungry, he can’t seem to sit still or stop playing long enough to eat. So, in keeping with the fun, try the following ideas, and everyone can join in the playing.
Try having a picnic. You’re probably thinking, “Tried that, doesn’t work.” but try a “switch-a-roo” picnic. First, let your child help fix a simple meal, such as sandwiches, nachos, or any other finger foods, but make sure you have three or four different things (one plate of finger sandwiches, one plate of cheese crackers, one plate of sliced apples, etc.). Now, let him set up the picnic area, whether it be inside or outside. Let him set out the blanket, napkins, cups, plates, etc. Let him invite “friends” to his picnic – his favorite stuffed animals, etc. Have everyone sit in a circle and give one plate of something to each person, or “friend,” at the picnic. Now, have everyone eat one of whatever is on the plate in front of them. Then, move each plate on to the next friend (or you can move each friend to the next plate), and have everyone eat something from the new plate in front of them. This is a lot of fun, and you may find that your child has actually eaten most of a meal.
Another great idea is to play restaurant. Fix whatever it is you are serving for your meal, and then have your toddler go into a room adjacent to the dining room. Go and get him from the room (you are now a hostess) and bring him to a seat at a preset table. Hand him a “menu” (a takeout menu from a restaurant works great), and tell him your daily “specials,” basically whatever you have prepared. You pretty much get the idea here, and you can work it any way you want, but it is great fun. This is a lot of fun to do for dinnertime when the whole family is home. You can even get your husband to put the kids in the car and drive up and down the driveway to get to the “restaurant.”
One more fun food activity that is sure to get your toddler eating is to have him help prepare a meal and be your “taste-tester.” By the time you are ready to set the food on the table, your toddler may already have eaten his full share, and then you can have a meal without the drama of trying to keep him seated long enough to eat.