Dinner (or meal time in general) can be stressful with a toddler. You come home from work tired and probably hungry, your toddler is hungry and cranky, you aren’t sure what to make or what they will eat. You give them some snacks to keep them busy and quiet while you get dinner ready. You finally get on the dinner table and your toddler refuses to touch anything on their plate. You try to get them to take “one bite” of everything before they can get up from the table but they continue refuse. You are now thinking you don’t want to have them go to bed hungry so you ask what they want, you either end up cooking something new or relying on more “snacky” foods like crackers or chips. Sound about right? Well.. you are not alone! I hear this from parents all the time. It’s something I have struggled with from time to time. The constant battle at dinner and stress that leads to an unpleasant family dinner. But it doesn’t have to be that way!!
Here are my 5 tips for making dinner time less stressful!
- Plan meals ahead! – Know what you are going to make ahead of time. Maybe have a few things prepared ahead so the preparation and cooking process takes less time.
- Plan to include a couple foods you know your toddler with eat. Bread and butter is always an easy option to have on hand to offer. Also maybe some dairy or fruit. That way you know your toddler will eat something.
- Limit snacking just before dinner. Eating a snack just before a meal doesn’t allow your toddler to come to the dinner table hungry. Instead they often come to the table full and less likely to eat or try new foods. If it has been more than 3 hours since they have eaten a snack, consider offering some fruit or veggies and dip. This way they are getting some beneficial nutrients.
- Avoid being a short order cook. Everyone should be offered the same foods at the dinner table. Remember, having options available you know your toddler will eat will ensure they eat something. Also continue to offer new foods or foods they have refused in the past. They will eventually try those foods, especially if they come to the table hungry.
- Avoid encouraging your toddler to eat a specific foods. If your toddler avoids something specific like the meat or vegetables avoid encouraging them to “take a bite”. They will eventually try the food if they are hungry and if they see you eating it! Also avoid using dessert as encouragement to have more of dinner, it doesn’t work. If they don’t end up eating much for dinner and bedtime is a couple hours away consider adding a snack before going to bed like milk and crackers or fruit and cheese.
These tips have made meal time in my house much easier. What has also helped keep me in check is always reminding myself that children still have the ability to listen to their bodies and eat intuitively that will allow them to grow and develop! Check out this post for more information on raising a happy, healthy eater!
If you have any concern regarding your toddlers eating habits or need help implementing these tips into your family meal time, please contact me here.