Maximising Your Mealtime Connections
Mealtimes can be tricky to navigate, especially for families with toddlers and young children. Toddlers are at that stage where they are certainly letting their opinions known, and keeping the experience positive for everyone is not always easy. Here are some strategies your family can try:
- Having a hard time getting your hands on a healthy variety of foods? Is your little one insisting on only eating beige snacks? It’s okay! Just try your best, and offer your child some healthy options when possible. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your child.
- Offer your toddler some options that you are fine with. This helps give them a sense of control and independence, which is important for their stage of development. “Do you want banana and peanut butter for a snack, or apples and cheese?”
- Try to eat meals together. Even if your family doesn’t tend to sit down to large meals, you can still enjoy snacking together. Routines and structures are important in helping children learn what to expect, and providing a sense of security.
- Mealtimes are an opportunity to connect with your child. You can engage them by asking questions: “What was your favourite part of the day?”
Try some of these fun ideas for making the most of mealtimes together:
1 — Indoor picnics
- Picnics outside are fun, but not always convenient as they are usually only a summer-time activity. Indoor picnics on the other hand, are possible throughout the year!
- Make space on your floor, spread a sheet or blanket and have yourselves a little picnic at home!
- Use reusable containers or a school lunchbox, like you would for an actual picnic. Your little one can assist in making food choices and putting it all together.
- Play dress-up! Your child can pick their favourite hat, sunglasses, etc. to wear for your time together.
- Arrange a teddy bear picnic. Similar to a tea party, your child can “invite” their stuffed animals or toys to join you and share your meal.
- Try eating under a blanket fort. With enough sheets and blankets you can build your very own cozy fort or tent and eat inside of that!
2 — Breakfast foods for dinner … or the other way around!
- Healthy cereal is simple to prepare — no cooking involved!
- Excite your child by engaging them in this plan: “Let’s do something silly and eat cereal for dinner!”
- “Can you help Mommy by pouring the cereal/milk into the bowl?”
- Toast, bagels, or pancakes can be “decorated” by your toddler with chopped fruit or nuts.
3 — Get creative with a themed meal
- You and your toddler can dress up as their favourite characters.
- Throw a birthday party for your child’s favourite stuffed toy.
- By adding food colouring, you can turn your food blue or red or even rainbow colours. Your child might enjoy making green mac ‘n cheese.
Whatever you do, it’s not really about making it elaborate or complicated. What’s important is spending time together, and building positive memories!