Twelve Tricks for Toddler Mealtime

These steps worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

1. Embrace the unifying power of dill. My daughter loves pickles, but hates green beans. So we feed her dill green beans because they taste like pickles.

2. To prevent stains at mealtime, I stripped my daughter to her diaper during her “I’m learning how to feed myself” months. What is better — taking off and putting back on the same top and bottom, or taking off those same (now stained) pieces and replacing them (making more laundry for yourself)?

3. Bibs are stored out-of-sight to avoid fights. We used to hang them for easy access, which caused endless struggles such as, “I want yellow one. No boo. No red. No purrrrpal.” Better yet, buy an identical set of bibs.

4. Dress for the day AFTER breakfast. At 2-years-old, I’m OK with stained pajamas. In the dark and around the house, who cares?

5. To protect our wood table from food and milk stains, I bought a $3 tacky vinyl table cover from K-Mart. I taped the vinyl to the table and placed a nice fabric table cloth on top. On laundry day, we wash the table cloth with bibs.

6. Fussy eaters are helpless against dipping sauces. The most unappealing foods are fun to eat when they’re dipped. Yes, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce and salad dressing are poor choices for calories, but have you tried reasoning with a 2-year-old? Just don’t let your child confuse sauces with salsa or wasabi.

Tangent: We eat Heinz Organic Ketchup which is sweetened with sugar instead of evil high fructose corn syrup. Organic ketchup is also more likely to fight cancer than “normal” pesticide ketchup.

7. Exploit farmer syndrome. At the grocery store, I let my daughter carry an apple, a couple bananas or a small bag of grapes. At the dinner table, I entice her by reminding her how she helped picked out the food item at the “food store.” We also pick organic blueberries at a local farm. When she refuses to eat berries at home, I only have to start talking about the fun we had at the farm.

8. Serve problem foods first. When I’m serving a food which my daughter may balk at, I serve it first while she is at her hungriest.

9. When a food item is refused and pushed away at arm’s length, don’t jump up to fix something else. Let the food sit a while. If needed, we do dishes while my daughter remains at the table. If my daughter has liked the food in the past, half the time she will eventually pull the plate back to herself and eat.

10. When microwaving food, I slice it open afterward and transfer it to a new plate. Trapped heat is quickly released from the food and some surface heat is transferred to the room temperature plate.

11. Rinse hot pasta under cold and then lukewarm water. Kids don’t know whether a food is supposed to taste good hot or cold. If I feed my daughter hot pasta, she will learn to dislike it when it has cooled. So, we serve almost-cold from the get-go. If you insist on hot pasta, cool it by pouring refrigerated pasta sauce on top. Cold pasta sauce will seem no different than cold ketchup or other sauces.

12. Forgo spaghetti. We eat bowtie, corkscrew and similar pastas which can be held by tiny hands. Put a small amount of pasta sauce to the side of the plate for dipping.


3 Responses to “Twelve Tricks for Toddler Mealtime”

  1. Roger Weeks says:

    It’s worth pointing out that ANY organic product will never contain high fructose corn syrup. For a processed food product to be labeled organic, it must have a certain percentage of organic components, and since almost anything that has high fructose corn syrup will be below that percentage, it can’t be labelled as organic.

    There’s no such thing as organic high fructose corn syrup.

    Also, if you like organic ketchup, and there’s a Trader Joe’s in your area, they have excellent and cheap organic ketchup.

    August 1st, 2006 at 2:26 pm

  2. eipwek says:

    These are really great tips! I need them, as I am such a novice when it comes to wee ones. I will certainly have to try these pointers with the toddler I babysit.

    August 1st, 2006 at 4:55 pm

  3. micaela says:

    LOL… I have to tell you this: the only pasta our toddler will eat spaghetti and elbow macaroni, he refuses all other pasta shapes!

    Your tips are great, we also take clothes off before meals and a few of the other things you do. This is such a quirky age, huh?

    August 6th, 2006 at 7:40 pm