Here is the thing about toddlers: they eat everything and nothing. Simultaneously. You’d think the two are mutually exclusive but no, not with a 2 year old. Seriously, it’s like she’s always eating, yet she wants nothing that I offer her. Finding toddler meal ideas becomes an art form as you try to predict what your
crazy, bipolar, tiny human little angel wants for lunch.
Every kid is different, but I would still venture to say that all toddlers speak some dialect of the same language. Once you figure out your child’s particular “dialect,” you can navigate meal times much easier. Here are my secrets that work…for now, anyway.
Toddler Meal/Snack Prep
As a #TeacherMom, I live by weekly meal prepping. I make all of my lunches/snacks for the work week on Sunday and don’t have to think about it again- super easy! So, it stands to reason that this plan would also work well for baby’s food, right?
We started making Belle’s food ‘en masse’ ahead of time when she first started solids (well, actually, I guess I’ve always had her food ready ahead of time, since she was breastfed…haha!)
Anyway, we began by pureeing fruit and veggie blends with breast milk and freezing in silicone ice cube trays. Every few days, we would just pop out a couple of cubes, defrost in the fridge and be ready to go! When they are that young, you are only really doing the prep work about once a month/3 weeks, since they eat very little.
Now that she is well into “toddlerhood” and able to eat most foods, I have had to get creative with food delivery and appearance.
Naturally, most small, finger-food type items are ideal toddler go-to’s, but if you know me, you know that I am against all things packaged. And unfortunately that is where you find most of the “finger food” type toddler snacks. While I totally cave and give her Puffs on occasion, in general I work very hard to provide quality nutrition for my little maniac.
The best way to do that is to make a bunch of snacks at once and package them up for the week. I have toyed around with some recipes that pack a lot of veggies and whole grains into cute, bite-sized portions and landed on some major wins! (I’ll leave the “misses” for another day…) Here is one you can print and try today!
Toddlers love to play! If you read my last post on making Oat Flour Pancakes, you know that Belle loves anything that can be “dipped” into something else. If you can make mealtimes or snacks “fun,” they will be much more willing to comply.
Some great “Novelty” options are:
- Cut-Up Peppers dipped in Hummus
- Different fruits mixed with oatmeal/cereal- seeing blueberries or strawberries in the bowl turns it into a “fishing” game!
- Cut-Up Bananas (or as we call them, Banana “circles”) seeing the food in a different form than usual makes is more exciting!
- Smoothies-lots of nutrition in a tasty, fun package!
- Frozen Applesauce in Ice-Pop Molds – We love FoodWorks Silicone Ice Pop Maker Molds!!
Toddlers are like mini-teenagers in the sense that they are trying to test boundaries and find their independence. In my classroom, a technique I often use it to present options that all lead to my desired result. Doing this allows kids to feel they have control over something. One of the best ways we help Belle transition to meal time is to ask her what color utensil she wants to use.
It may sound silly, but presenting her with options and allowing her to choose gives her the feeling of control and independence she craves, and typically allows us to start a meal with no fuss. I guess it puts her in a good mindset knowing she just made a “grown-up” choice! Another biggie is for her to choose her own straw for her cups.
You can do the same thing with outfits, shoes, music, toys, books, or even snacks!
Using “grown up” utensils
“Everything that Mommy and Daddy have MUST be better than what I have, right?” Every toddler truly believes this, so capitalize on it! Allow them to use your fork (within reason) or spoon to scoop a bite or two. This goes back to the “novelty” factor of having something different to use or focus on, but with the added bonus of it being Mommy’s or Daddy’s.
Belle likes to assign possession of items:
So being able to use Daddy’s fork really makes those scrambled eggs taste that much better 🙂
OK, one more handy tip we discovered when Belle began eating snacks: instead of giving her a plastic bowl or baggie, we used one of our silicone measuring bowls.
This was completely random, but turned out to be GENIUS because
- They are silicone, so snacks don’t slip out as she learns to balance and toddle around (i.e. less mess!)
- They are easy to hold onto.
- They are brightly colored and fun to look at.
- The come in varying sizes (because they are measuring bowls, duh) so they work for every snack!
- We didn’t have to buy them- woohoo saving $$!
We have these Good Cook Silicone Prep Measuring Bowls, but look through your cupboards, if you have some-bust them out!
You’re welcome. 🙂
I hope these toddler meal tips come in handy! Please click and download the FREE recipes for some healthy, tasty snacks to make ahead for your munchkins!
Any good tips you can add for toddler meal time?