Mealtimes involving toddlers are exhausting. They take up so much time, yet it’s such a tornado of an experience that it seems to go from start to finish in a blink of an eye! The insulting remarks from your picky one about your cooking are sure to sting or cause you to never want to spend ample amount of time in the kitchen again. But you will because you all need to eat and you love your kiddos – messes and all. Below is a recipe I whipped up covering many aspects of mealtimes with toddlers and how to best cope with these messy occasions multiple times a day!
- Everyone present – maybe waiting for Dad every night doesn’t work for your family, so focus on during the meal presence. If one kid gets up mid-meal and wanders about the kitchen, surely the others will follow.
- Clean eating surface – because it turns out kids don’t like their leftover lunch surrounding the table/high chair tray where their dinner is placed.
- Same starting time – dishing up multiple plates at a time is beneficial because then the kids will start eating at the same time, rather than having one finish way beforehand, causing the others to think they’re done too.
- Helpful dishes – sure, any old dish will do but a turned over plate or spilled bowl of food, or a drink all over the floor would sure put a damper on things. So why not try out something like EZPZ or Avanchy or Re-Play?
- Guidelines – cut-and-dry kitchen rules help toddlers to know that there are expectations for mealtimes.
- Child-friendly food – snacks and meals that you know your child will eat are always the best go-to items.
- Patience – they may not like your cooking and they’ll probably make a mess of your kitchen, but soon it’ll all be over.
- Bring out all of your best distraction tools to allow yourself time in the kitchen for dinner-prep. The hungrier the kid, the grumpier the kid, so the better the distractions should be!
- Ask your age-appropriate child to help set the table and give yourself time to pick up the tower of cups and bowls on the ground, as well as reset the table almost entirely.
- Dish out the food and lovingly serve it to your kids.
- Ignore the looks on their faces when they see what is for dinner.
- Sit down to your plate and revel in the accomplishment that you made food for your family!
- Stand up before taking a bite to help your kid find the fork they just dropped on the ground.
- While sitting back down, realize you forgot to get drinks.
- Continue your standing up/sitting down exercise routine throughout the remainder of the meal.
- Help your children wipe their hands and faces and put their dishes in the sink.
- Enjoy the rest of your meal in peace and forget about the mess and pile of dishes waiting behind you.
- Try not to cry when your toddler comes back into the kitchen three minutes later and tells you he’s hungry.
- Hopefully full bellies and therefore, happier attitudes all around!
Expert Tips (minus the expert part):
- Age-related arbitrary rules: if a four-year-old doesn’t like the food in front of her, she needs to eat at least four bites. If a three-year-old says he’s done, but there is food left on the plate, he needs to eat at least three more bites.
- For higher altitude: take deeper breaths due to the lower amount of oxygen in the air. ;)