Dinner with toddlers is probably the busiest and messiest time of every mum. What’s crazier is this happens every day!
They’ll change food preference in a snap. Then suddenly throw a fuss. And when you thought you got things figured out, food comes flying across the room.
But don’t fret. There are ways to put peace and dining table in one sentence. Here’s what I do to make family mealtime with my little one more enjoyable and less chaotic.
Set a Fixed Dinnertime Schedule
In most cases, the struggle begins when you call the kids to eat. Rather than force them to come to the dinner table, create a mealtime routine and stick to it.
That way, your little one knows when to eat and when to expect the next one. You can also make it a habit to call him 5 minutes before dinner. The habitual alert should give him time to wrap up and get ready.
Adjust your mealtime schedule based on his hunger cues, too. For instance, if he decides to skip dinner today, have a planned bedtime snack in the next hour or so.
With this tip, both of you get some form of control and skip the dreaded power struggle.
Mix New Foods with Old Favourites
We all want our kids to eat a variety of foods. But they are more likely to skip dinner altogether when you put unfamiliar items on their plate.
Dinner with toddlers is more successful when they see at least one thing they love to eat. What I do is mix up a favourite meal with new items.
If your child likes pasta and cheese, for example, serve both for dinner with a different sauce. Or if your little one likes anything fruit, pair some with a new vegetable dish.
Try to rotate your children’s favourite foods within the week to make meal planning easy for you. Then incorporate new varieties in small portions.
This way, they always look forward to dinner and, hopefully, get to broaden their food choices.
Stock Up on Dinner Shortcuts
Kids can get impatient rather quickly when they’re hungry. And making everything from scratch every day can take a toll on us just as fast.
Here’s a tip to avoid mum burnout: use meal shortcuts. For instance, freeze baby food, stock or similar items you can quickly put together for dinner.
Stock up on frozen veggies and meat, canned sauces and other pantry staples. Pre-made burgers or rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is perfect, too.
Dinner with toddlers does not have to be over the top, after all. What’s important is to serve a delicious, balanced meal that is easy to whip up.
Apply Tricks to Lessen the Mess
Dinner with toddlers is not complete without the accidental spills, food smears and crumbs on the floor. These get worse once the kids start insisting on feeding themselves.
It’s tiring when you have to wipe down every time they create a mess while your food gets cold. But there are several ways how to shorten clean-up time and minimise stress. For example:
- Use a high chair. This tip should contain all the drips and crumbs in one place.
- Use a splash mat. Place this waterproof liner under your kids’ chairs, and voila! No more sweeping and mopping.
- Use Sippy cups. I love these nifty, spill-proof drinkware as they can go from dining table to living room to car. You can also use water bottles with straws if you like.
Serve Plated Dinners, Not Platters
If you constantly scurry around during dinnertime, get refills or attend to your kids, then this tip is for you. Instead of putting lots of food on the table, portion them on plates and leave the rest on the counter.
Prep your toddler’s food in bite-sized pieces before serving, too. It should help cool down the meal as well.
This way, the only time you need to get up is when the kids want seconds. I suggest leaving the pitcher, condiments and bread on the dinner table, though, for quicker access.
Serving plated meals work well for young children. But as they grow older, you can always change your dinner set-up and let the kids serve themselves.
Implement Simple Dinner Rules
Dinner table rules may give you parental control and, of course, lessen stress. But this tip is also a perfect opportunity to teach our kids good table manners.
Early training on proper meal etiquette early will make it easier for them to get the hang of things. So, ask them to wash up before dinnertime or not to spit food out onto the floor.
Show them how to properly chew their food and be polite when asking for refills. Also, remind them not to talk with their mouth full.
Dinner with toddlers will always be loud and chaotic. But there are ways how to minimise feeding frustrations.
Stay calm and be patient! Follow these tips or use them as inspiration for stress-free mealtime tricks that will work for your household.