Lots of fabulous moms out there have had their children involved in their cooking from a very young age. I found myself very hesitant to have my kids “cook” (I put cook in quotes because I leave the kids out of any heating or cutting parts of cooking) with me when they were younger because I was paranoid of them falling off of the chairs they would need to stand on. I know that there are products out there designed to keep the kiddos safe while boosting their height but I wasn’t quite ready to spend the money on something like The Learning Tower pictured here. It may seem overprotective that I was so paranoid about them falling but I can’t help but have anxiety after DS’ fall last summer resulting in an obvious broken arm. Shutter….
Anyway, I’m finally mostly comfortable with the kids standing on chairs next to me while we cook in the kitchen. I can’t believe what a difference it has made in their eating habits to have them help me cook. The littles are generally very good eaters but when I work hard on a time consuming casserole they suddenly get very picky and don’t eat very well. I’ve figured out that they generally like to know what they are eating. Mixing things together leads to hesitant eaters.
Recently though, I have discovered that if I have the kids help me make our meal, even when it is mixed together, they are much more excited to eat it! We have had lots of fun blending things up in our Magic Bullet. We have made hummus, and basil pesto sauce most recently. The kids were much more excited about eating their pasta and pesto pizza after having helped make it!
I don’t know about you, but I find myself stuck in a cooking rut on many occasions and having the kids join me in the cooking process has really helped. It also helps them cooperate and behave better right before meal time. My kids get crankiest when they are getting tired and are hungry and, wouldn’t you know, they are always tired and hungry whenever I’m trying to make lunch or dinner!
What’s your favorite thing to “cook” with your littles? Leave a recipe to share with other parents below and help get out of your cooking rut!
Lately my son has been on a food strike. No fun. As a rational adult and nurse, I know that he won’t starve himself. (I’m sure there is some rare medical condition where this is not the case, but you get me.) So after a week and a half of DS’s refusal to eat more than a few bites of most any meal, I called the pediatrician. For all those rolling your eyes at what is, most probably, a toddler struggle for power, DS had also had several dry diapers which had me concerned about his kidney function. I have to say that even when common sense or Doctors tell me everything is fine, I tend to err on the side of my motherly instincts. No one knows my babies like I do!
Anyways, he is getting more of his 2 year molars, and after two weeks of the hunger strike, he got a cold so there is no telling what brought on the strike. The issue was, what to do about it. There were a couple nights when DS outright refused dinner. We were obviously concerned and didn’t want him to go to bed hungry but I didn’t want to get him in a habit of not eating dinner so that he could have a “snack”. My husband gave him peanut butter crackers after one completely refused dinner and I knew that there had to be a better way.
So, I talked to the phone nurse at my pediatrician’s office and she gave a few suggestions to add to the techniques we were already using.
Toddlers can be sooooo picky! They go through these phases where they will eat their body weight in food and at other times they’ll eat nothing at all. It can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with because you are worried about their nutrition. For some reason, we actually believe that our children might starve themselves rather than eat what we’ve given them. Let me assure you that, with a healthy child, this will not happen.
I have been blessed with children who are pretty good eaters. I credit much of this to using the “Baby Led Weaning” method which I have described in previous posts (see HERE). They are now 28 months old (this makes me cringe a little, knowing how big they are getting!) and still have off and on days. I thought I’d share with you some things that have helped me when they are in a more picky stage.
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons they don’t want to eat. When my daughter is getting a canker sore she slows down quite a bit and then will sometimes start crying in the middle of a meal. This is usually one of my first clues that she had a canker sore and I start giving her yogurt mixed with lots of things so that she can eat in comfort. Another legitimate reason is when they are getting new teeth! Yes, they are still getting teeth….
I find it pretty amusing that my son and daughter are SOOOOO different when it comes to food. If I put a breakfast in front of them, consisting of waffles with cream cheese and a pear, my daughter will devour the pear first and my son will eat the waffle (and maybe some of the fruit – if i’m lucky). My son is a carb guy. He will devour any kind of bread within a mile radius. My daughter will eat half a bag of frozen green beans (cooked) and look for more.
My daughter is one of the least pickiest eaters around but my son will fuss over anything. One day he’ll like it, then next “you’re out”! I have found that it can help to change things up a little. If he is having a fussy meal I’ll take the fruit slices and try cutting them into small chunks, or asking him if he wants his fruit in a bowl so he can scoop it with a spoon. Giving him a utensil or a different utensil can also be a game changer. He loves to stab his food. There were several months that if he couldn’t put his finger through it, he wouldn’t eat it. So, a fork is only second best to poking his food with his finger. Sometimes I’ll try putting the food in a snack trap while he’s at his highchair. This is just another way to mix it up. He’s thinking “Oh! It’s not breakfast, it’s SNACK!” Somehow, snack has grown into this really cool time/stuff to eat. I give them healthy snacks, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about, but I’ll take enthusiasm for food any way I can get it!
If all else fails, I’ll take my son out of his highchair and see if he will eat from my lap or at a small kids table we have. I try not to worry too much about a picky meal day. My son always makes up for a picky day with a “eating everything in sight” day soon after. As long as I continue to provide them with a well balanced meal (whether they eat it or not) they will eventually get what they need. We recently started giving the kids a gummy vitamin with lunch to try to make up for any pickiness. It seems to have helped my daughter to get fewer canker sores!
Make sure to let your doctor know your concerns if you feel your child isn’t getting what they need. It may be reassuring to keep a food diary/log of what your child eats to help either reassure yourself or to use for a reference when you talk to your pediatrician or his or her phone nurse.
I have found that if you find that one thing that your child loves and eats plenty of, and you feed it to them too often, they will eventually burn out on that food and not want it at all. Yikes! There goes the safety food or the good ole standby that baby will most surely eat!
Do you have any fun techniques that you use to encourage your child to eat? I’d love to hear about them in a comment on this post! For a great idea of the Baby Led Weaning method, check out this Blog!
The other night, my husband and I took our 18 month old twins out to dinner. We had a what for us was typical evening out. While we were cleaning up the kids, packing up their supplies, and getting them back in their stroller, a couple stopped us and complimented the kid’s behavior, asking “what is your secret”? I told them that we have been taking the kids out to eat regularly since they were very young, and left it at that. After thinking about it, I realized there is more to it, and I want to let you know how to make eating with your kids a good experience.
We started with a book called “Baby-led Weaning”, written by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett. At 5 1/2 months (because my daughter was fussing with feeds) we started both of the twins on oatmeal baby cereal. I had ordered “Baby-led Weaning” but it had yet to arrive. The book was soon delivered and as soon as I read the basics, we stopped the oatmeal and started the baby-led weaning method. Some key points are:
Eat as a family – Children learn by example, which is why, if you eat with them on your lap, eventually they will want to grab some of your food and try eating it themselves.
Give them food with a built-in handle – Foods like broccoli, asparagus, teething biscuits, melon cut in sticks, nectarine slices, etc., make great food firsts. These are easy to hold while baby is learning to get food from their tray or table in to their mouth. Yogurt and hummus make for great dips with these hand held foods.
Relax – Expect a messy baby! Your baby is learning to eat. This requires quite a skill set! They have to learn to get the food in their hand, to their mouth, must gum it in to smaller bits, and then learn to move food around in their mouth for chewing and swallowing. Yes, in the beginning, food falls out of their mouth as much as it gets swallowed and gagging is common (baby’s gag reflex is much further forward than ours). But, choking is actually less common in babies who learn to eat themselves (a baby-led weaning method) versus babies who are spoon fed. The details are in the book. And the details are important because MANY a grandparent is suspicious of giving a baby food that has not been pureed.
Payoff – By giving your baby a selection of healthy foods to choose from on their tray, he or she learns how to eat on their own. You can eat as a family, because you don’t have to spoon feed every bite to baby. Eating as a family teaches baby about all the social aspects of eating like manners, etc. In general, baby-led weaning babies are less picky eaters because they have chosen what to put in their mouth (or think they have) from the start. Wohoo!
When our family goes out to eat we put these wonderful sticky placemats down, lay out food and let the babies go to town! I bring plenty of “starters” so that they have good stuff to eat while we wait for the ordered food to make it’s way out of the kitchen. We eat our dinners, and when it is time for clean up, I have found the most effective clean up tool is a pre-packed wet washcloth. (Disposable baby wipes left my son’s face broken out, and aren’t nearly as effective as removing all the meal-mess from baby’s hands and face.) “Neat Solutions Disposable Placemats” can be found at Target, Amazon & Diapers.com and are biodegradable!
Lately there is more and more talk about how healthy it is to eat meals as a family. This time is used to talk about how everyone’s day went and socialize as a family. I can’t think of a better way to build a healthy family routine than by starting when baby is learning to eat!