Apart from running the Duck Egg & Lime Kids Cookery School, I am also a full time Mum to two little girls, aged 1 and 2 and a half. To say our household is busy is an understatement… more like organised chaos! Just like every other parent out there, we have had our fair share of battles when it came to meal times with our two and half year old.
Sometimes it feels like she gets a kick out of pushing boundaries and it can be so frustrating, trying to negotiate with a two year old who has all the time in the world, when you have ten minutes before your next appointment. After a long day its hard to be motivated to sit down and persist with your bundle of joy but the tips below should go a long way to getting your toddler interested in food.
1. Get Them Involved
Toddlers who are involved in the preparation of their food are far more likely to eat it. There are so many things to distract them in their little worlds so it can take a little bit of effort to get them to sit with you while you prepare their meals.
A great little starter is to simply get them to give you a hand making toast in the morning. Pushing down the button and telling them to wait for it to go ‘POP’ can be great craic for a toddler.
Another simple one is getting them to join in when scrambling eggs. Grab the saucepan, sit on the floor with them and let them crack the eggs and whisk until their hearts content. This sounds messy and it can be at the start but they’ll get the hang of it in no time. Remember, there’s always something that could use a ‘magic’ stir!
Chicken Goujons is a fantastic one to have fun with and also works on boundaries as you will need to explain why you can’t eat ‘raw meat’. Dipping the chicken from the egg to breadcrumbs to the baking sheet, will provide simple entertainment as all kids love to make a mess. Use the timer on the oven so the child understands when it goes ‘beep, beep’ the Goujons are ready to eat!
Don’t overwhelm them with full plates. Nothing could be more off putting to a small child than the task of getting through a mountain of food they’re not even sure they like. We read guidelines that suggest young kids should eat a tablespoon of each food per year of age. That means for a 2 year old, 2 tablespoons of chicken, 2 of potatoes and 2 tablespoons of peas at dinner. It’s also recommended that at 1 to 2 years your kids should be eating 900 to 1,000 calories a day, while at 2 to 3 years they should be gobbling up about 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day.
It’s a good guide but it’s ideal world stuff really… If yours is like ours they might have a bite or two one type of food and polish off another and their habits can change from one week to the next. As long as you’re keeping an eye over the course of the week and doing your best to keep things balanced, in our experience they’ll be fine.
3. New Foods with , and Tested
It’s a good idea to include a tried and tested food type on your child’ plate when introducing new ones. It’s less intimidating for shy eaters. We often use dips to make the challenge of eating new veggies that little bit less daunting. Ideally you would avoid the convenient ketchup and instead use hummus, pureed fruit or even yogurt. If your kid already is reaching for the ketchup maybe try substituting it with an unsweetened homemade tomato sauce.
4. Offer Choice
A great way to get your little ones interested in eating well is by giving them the option to decide on what they would prefer. Don’t invite potential conflict by offering a decision between something you know they like and something they’re not sure of, e.g.’Chips or mushrooms?’ The options have to be from the same world, e.g.’Broccoli or Cauliflower?’ Neither option might get your toddler too excited but broccoli being served without consultation is in no way as palatable as broccoli being served by request.
5. Clean Up
Tidying up when they are finished their meal might not seem like the most obvious way to keep your smallies interested in eating but it adds to the whole dinner experience for them. They’ve yet to build up the negative connotations associated with cleaning up that an older kid might have. At toddler stage, it’s just another activity they get to do with Mammy or Daddy. If you have a ‘Clean Up’ rhyme or song use it, if not, make up one. Get them to help with putting their own plates, cups and cutlery into the dishwasher with you.