Your challenge: You are determined to establish the tradition of family dinner times. But your littlest eater is more interested in throwing the food on the ground and squirming to get down before the main course is even on the table. How can you lay the foundation for those family meals to come—while keeping everyone happy in the meantime?
The solution: Look at a mealtime less as an opportunity for everyone to sit peacefully around the table and share stories about their day and more like a fun, interactive chance to introduce your baby to new foods. By taking pressure out of the occasion, you can get on with enjoying the time together.
Move up dinner time: Say you’ve always had dinner at 7 p.m. Only, that’s now smack-dab in the middle of bedtime. Making your baby or toddler wait until they are hangry is only setting everyone up for a tableside struggle, so consider bumping up dinner to a time that works better for your smallest family member. If that means your partner isn’t yet home from the office, know there will be plenty of years when you can all eat at the same time. Until then, work on getting your kiddo in the habit of sitting at the table for meals, even if they are the only one eating.
Playing with food: Generally speaking, playing with food is frowned upon. But for toddlers, it may just be the best way to introduce them to new flavors and textures. Little kids are hands-on creatures, so giving them foods they can dip, dunk or smear is one of the best ways to pique their interest. (Not to mention it keeps their interest longer for more time at the table.)
Involve them in the meal: Enlist “help” from your kids from the beginning stages of the meal by asking them to shake up the vinaigrette or put the spoons on the table. Even little ones catch on to the sense that they contributed, which can boost their desire to see mealtime all the way through.
Mess patrol: If your little one’s favorite part of dinner is seeing how far they can throw it, institute the rule that throwing means getting down and throwing it away in the trash can. Bad habits are a whole lot less tempting when kids are responsible for the clean-up.
Pro tip: If your goal is to keep your toddler seated until dinner is done, a table toy can keep them in sight and content after they are done eating.
You’ve got this.
Motherly + Kids 2 provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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