I don’t know about you, but in our house, it always used to be a battle to get our toddler to eat dinner. My daughter will be 2-years-old in May and she started giving us her toddler opinion right around the 18-month marker. You know, full blown ‘tude.
Like most families, every night we try to sit down as a family and enjoy a nice dinner after a long day. Every single night (and mainly the days I worked) she would resist dinner. She would downright cry and scream for what seemed no apparent reason. And of course she couldn’t verbalize her upset with just the 15 or so words in her vocabulary.
It was tiring, it was confusing, I mean wasn’t she hungry? I am always famished by the time I get home from work, but kids are different. They are different in the sense that “eating” takes up their precious play time. It took me a couple of months to figure out how to get my daughter interested in dinner. I mean, we all know that eating before bed is necessary for a good night’s sleep.
I have noticed for myself and my kids the strongest desire to eat is around lunch time. I believe it’s because our bodies have been up for hours and we need a decent meal to get us through our long day. Both of my kids have always ate the best at lunch time. And since I work outside of the home, I don’t always know how well they eat at lunch each day. And toddlers sleep patterns can be erratic. It’s best to make sure they get some good nutrients in their bellies before shut-eye, otherwise, who knows what time they’ll wake up wailing because they’re hungry.
According to Ayurvedic wisdom, the biggest meal of the day should be around noon, as this is when our digestive system is working at its best. I agree wholeheartedly with this logic, but I also want to make sure my toddler’s tummy has some food in it before she dozes into hopefully a nice slumber.
There is a trick to the dinner time toddler madness. I’m sure not all parents will agree with my tricks and that’s OK. There is no one size fits all when it comes to parenting. You do what works best for you and your family. The biggest challenge we faced at dinner was my daughter sitting in her booster chair. Amazingly enough, Minnie Mouse isn’t as attractive as mom’s lap. I’ve learned that the best way for her to eat at dinner is to allow her to sit on my lap. Once I made that switch, we noticed a decrease in the number of outbursts.
The second thing I started to do was offer her a cookie with her meal. I know some might shake their heads at this, but we always give our kids a treat with or after dinner. My oldest generally eats her dinner without many complaints and knows if she eats a decent amount – she’ll get a cookie or something sweet afterward. Since she always finishes before her younger sister, she gets her treat while sister is still humming and hawing over what is in front of her. And of course, little sister wants in on the goods. I quickly realized with my youngest that when I gave her a cookie or say, a donut hole – she would then eat the other food on her plate.
Of course, at first, I thought it was a fluke. And I tried it again the following night, the night after, and the night after that and voila! It worked like a charm. Every. Time. She’d take a little bite of a cookie, then eat a strawberry. Then another bite of pasta, and a bite of her cookie.
And the best thing of all with my newfound discovery… most nights she doesn’t even finish her dessert and she eats a bulk of her dinner. #winning
I don’t know about you but there are only so many battles I can deal with. And after a long day at the office, a long commute, and tired eyes – the last thing I want to do is fight with my mini-me over where she sits or if she eats.