Let’s face it – the run up to mealtimes with your toddler can feel more like a preparation for battle than a nice, family bonding experience. All toddlers go through phases of throwing dramatic tantrums because they suddenly don’t want to try anything you are serving up.
If you’re starting to lose your sanity and dread mealtimes with your little one, there’s one thing that can really help and that’s making their meals more fun.
That’s it? That’s really the key to ending those unbearable mealtime battles? Well, no. Unfortunately, nothing will make mealtimes with your toddler happy and carefree 100% of the time. However, making their meals more fun can help in certain situations and reduce the battles you face.
So, why does it help and how exactly can you make mealtimes a fun experience?
Why Making Mealtimes Fun Helps
Toddlers are renowned for their fussiness at the dining table. They know what they like and that’s exactly what they want. They don’t want to try new things, they’re perfectly happy with the handful of crackers they know and love. So, when it comes to giving them anything different, it’s a struggle to convince them they’ll enjoy it.
Making the meals more fun however, can persuade even the fussiest eater to try new things. It won’t always work, but it can definitely help a lot on most days.
Think of it like exercise for adults. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to continue with it. The same applies here. Making the meals fun will help your little one look forward to eating and they’ll also be more likely to actually eat what is placed in front of them. So, the question is how can you make them more fun?
How To Make Mealtimes Fun
There’s actually a lot of different things you can do to make mealtimes more fun for your toddler. Below we’ll look at some of the best, most effective tips you can try out.
1.Make Them Look Fun
One of the simplest tips which many parents swear by is making their toddler’s meals look fun. See the plate as your canvas and the food as your tools. Arrange the food in funny shapes, or if you’re quite artistic, try to create little food masterpieces. Your toddler will love it and for some reason will be more compelled to eat it. Try it, it actually works!
If you need a little inspiration you can always search online. You’ll find lots of pictures of fun toddler meals that other parents have created on sites such as Pinterest.
2. Give Them Finger Foods
Toddlers are commonly drawn to finger foods and prefer things they can actually grab and put into the mouth. If you’ve noticed your little one goes into meltdown whenever they are faced with a bowl of sloppy food and a spoon, finger foods could be the answer.
You can even create your own healthy finger foods if you’re worried about nutrition. Foods such as meat cubes, chunks of fruit and vegetable sticks are also great at teaching your toddler better coordination.
3. Create A Food Story
One great way to raise the fun factor at mealtimes is to create your own story. You can use the foods as little characters if you’re feeling particularly creative. However, a simpler idea is to talk about the food, including its texture, color and where it usually grows or lives.
Toddlers love a good story and if you do it every day, they’ll soon start to look forward to mealtimes to see which story they’re getting this time. To step it up a little, you and your toddler could create your own food songs. Singing and eating will definitely make mealtimes a fun experience!
4. Don’t Stress Over The Mess
It’s easy to get stressed out as you witness your toddler eating. They may love feeding themselves, but that doesn’t mean they’re very good at it. They are still developing their table manners and hand to mouth coordination. So, it’s going to get messy – very messy!
It may not be fun to clean up, but making a big deal over the mess is sure to lead to tantrums. It’s also going to make your toddler associate mealtimes with arguments and stress. Mess is a common part of toddler mealtimes and as long as they aren’t throwing food across the room on purpose, it’s often best to let it slide.
5. Give The Foods Fun Names
As well as making your toddler’s food look fun, you can also give them more creative names. Broccoli for example, doesn’t sound very exciting, but call it something like a midget tree or a fun forest and your toddlers interest will soon perk up.
Creating your own fun food names, or searching online for inspiration, will encourage your little one to try new things. It’s amazing how much difference a simple name can make!
6. Let Them Help You
It’s not just the eating part of a meal that you can make more enjoyable for your toddler. It also helps a lot if you let them prepare the meal with you. Unlike adults, toddlers often love getting involved in chores. They like to feel grown up and if they feel they’ve helped make a meal, they’ll feel proud to taste what they’ve created.
Obviously, what they can actually do to help is limited. However, they’ll be happy enough simply passing you things and chopping things with a toddler-safe knife.
7. Let Them Grow Their Own Vegetables
Your toddler will love growing their own veggies. They’ll find it fascinating watching their seeds turn into an actual food. Just like preparing a meal in the kitchen, this really helps them to feel a sense of accomplishment and they’ll be so excited to try the food they’ve helped to grow.
A word of caution here however. It may seem like a cute idea to give the vegetables names. However, it could actually make your toddler not want to eat them once they’re ready. Giving them a name makes them feel like living things and sensitive children won’t want to eat anything they’ve grown attached to.
8. Give Them Novelty Cutlery
You’ll find a wide range of toddler cutlery designs to choose from. Giving them plates, spoons and mugs with their favorite cartoon character on will really increase the fun appeal at mealtimes. They’ll be so excited to use their new cutlery and this simple trick can make a staggering difference to how much they eat too.
9. Cut The Food Up And Use Different Preparation Methods
Toddlers can find large portions of food daunting; particularly if they’ve never had them before. So, always cut up large pieces of food so it’s easier for your little one to grab hold of. It’s also a great idea to try out different preparation methods.
Grating certain foods for example, adds a completely different look and texture to the plate. If you get a good variety of textures your toddler will enjoy trying each different one on their plate.
10. Play Games
Playing games at the table is another way to get your toddler to look forward to mealtimes. You can play games such as I-Spy in-between courses, or play a game together after the meal. If they know they get to play a fun game afterwards, they’ll be happy to finish off their food quickly to get to game time!
Overall, it’s quite simple to make mealtimes more fun for your toddler. The above are just 10 great ideas you can try out today. Making mealtimes more fun does make it much more likely your little one will try new foods and eat what’s in front of them.
Do you have your own tips our other readers may find useful? Share them below!