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Toddlers and meal time: Keeping them satisfied so you can get dinner ready

With toddlers, life can be a bit unpredictable. When we are trying to get something done, it always seems our little ones need us, especially at meal time. Learn some strategies to meet your child’s needs while you get dinner ready for your family.

Be flexible
It never fails at our house that our toddler gets fussy as soon as I start fixing dinner. Occasionally she plays with her Dad or brothers, but often she wants Mom’s company when I need to be getting the meal ready. If I have learned anything as a Mom, it’s flexibility.

To survive with your sanity intact during the toddler years and make them more enjoyable you need to go with the flow. I have found a few strategies that work well to occupy a toddler and to make dinner time go smoothly. Move your toddler where she can be with you, and you can control what is happening. I move her high chair back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room, but if possible it would be great to have two high chairs that can be in both places. I locate my daughter as close to where I am working as is safe. She seems to feel she is “helping” me, but with her in the high chair I don’t worry about hot spills or tripping over her.

Give healthy snacks
Feed your toddler as you are making dinner. Yes, I know, many of you will think this is strange, and feel that everyone should eat together. Remember, flexibility is the key here. My daughter still eats with us at dinner time, or at least sits with us while we are eating. At this young age, it’s more a matter of her watching how we eat and learning the routine that is important. The following are easy suggestions for toddler food that I have found work well:

  • Baby Carrots — Place five or six in a microwave proof bowl with a 1/2 cup or so of water. Microwave for about two to three minutes. I like to cook them until they are just tender but not mushy. You can slice larger carrots too, but I find the baby carrots are sweet and tender.
  • Peas — We use frozen or fresh peas. Cook the same way as the carrots, drain and serve to your child. I also mix both carrots and peas together. I buy large bags of frozen peas and store them in plastic freezer containers. I simply grab what I need and put the container back!
  • Bananas — What would we do without these? I slice thin and give one or two to my daughter at a time. She is learning to use a fork with bananas too. They are easy to “stab” with a plastic baby fork.
  • Potatoes — I microwave a potato until tender. Cool slightly and peel off the skin. I cut it into bite size pieces and store in a plastic container for two days, sometimes three, but no longer. I serve the same way as the bananas.

Obviously there are many, many more finger foods appropriate for small children such as halved grapes, graham crackers, animal crackers (be careful of the brands that are “hard” and may be a choking hazard), dry cereal and small pieces of bread or bagel with peanut butter.

While my daughter is munching away on her nutritious snacks, I am able to fix dinner and spend time singing, talking and occasionally dancing with her. She loves to listen to music while we cook. When dinner is ready, she sits at the table with us and usually eats her meat or other food that she needs help with, and we are all able to catch up on how our day has gone. Flexibility is a good thing!

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