You always hear how each pregnancy, birth and child is different. I can truly attest to that being the mother of two. My children are as different as night and day. As a toddler, Baby was content to play in one place with her toys for hours at a time. Jed, on the other hand, NEVER stops moving. Active is an understatement for this boy!
While he keeps us on our toes during the hours he’s awake, as he has gotten older he has presented us with another challenge. Eating. Jed rarely stops long enough to eat a full meal. At his two year checkup, we were reassured he is growing normally, but when I saw his weight in the 17th percentile I got worried.
I started thinking. How can I get Jed to take more interest in eating? If I could make food be as fun as his playtime, I may get him to stay at the table for more than 10 minutes. I know he likes flavor and takes interest in unique foods, so how can I leverage that aspect?
I decided to start with basic foods that Jed already eats and enjoys. I use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for his sandwiches. He likes quesadillas, so I am using tortillas to make fun spirals with different fillings. Thinking of small portions, I’m looking to appetizers for some ideas too. Small meatballs or mini quiche can potentially be the perfect size for little hands.
Keeping the food fun, I always think of skewers. I’ve mentioned it before…who doesn’t like food on a stick! Cut cheese in fun shapes, small cubes of diced ham or chicken and alternate with halved cherry tomatoes. Alternate different diced veggies on the skewer and add some hummus or a few other flavored dips on the side. Let the child assert their independence while discovering some new flavors. And don’t underestimate the power of color or whimsy for kids. Simply serving mandarin orange slices in a colored silicone cup can sometimes make a difference.
As I continue to fill my arsenal with ideas for attacking meal time with Jed, my mind wandered back to my previous interest in the Japanese style bento boxes. If you are not familiar with Bento, check out this site. It’s one of my favorite sites for ideas and even has recipes (which inspires my inner foodie). Bento would be a great way to peak more interest in eating because it’s very eye appealing, but it can also open up a whole new world to explore via flavors and textures.
I have my work cut out for me at mealtime with Jed, but at least I know I have a plan to go forward. I know I am not alone in the struggle of toddlers eating enough.
What are your favorite ideas (and foods) to successfully get your toddler the nutrition he/she needs to grow?