If you ever come visit me in my home, bring slippers.
My floors will most likely be somewhat sticky. Why? Because I have a toddler.
Enough said, right?
I try to remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel the crunch or squish of something underfoot. I bought really nice slippers for Christmas this past year to help with that. Now my slippers are just really sticky on the bottom.
Today I want to talk about toddlers and meal time battles. The mealtime battle was a constant in my home until very recently. It’s a time that I don’t recall with great fondness, to be honest.
It would usually start with me plopping a pile of food onto my son’s highchair tray and walking away. If I wanted an easy time of it, I’d give him things that I knew were his favourites but not the most nutritious variety. Most of the time he went straight to throwing everything off his tray. This didn’t go over well with me and my husband.
We’d react poorly. We’d raise our voices. Thus began a major meltdown and the rest of the evening was shot. It would end with us bathing our son and putting him to bed early because he just couldn’t settle himself after that. Then I would spend the rest of the night feeling like the world’s worst mother and worrying that he would wither away from never eating properly. I knew there had to be a better way!
Does that sound familiar to you? Well I’m here to tell you that it can get better! I want to share 4 easy ways to effectively end the dreaded mealtime battles.
Buy your child their own dishes. Give them their own plate, bowl, fork and spoon. Utensils sized for their little hands are a great way for them to start learning to feed themselves. We have a few of those sectioned plates that stick to the highchair tray. Giving my son his own dishes and utensils has nearly eliminated all mealtime battles. I believe it has a lot to do with him feeling like he’s in control of something. This floor mat (aka drop cloth) has been great for quicker clean ups and this snack trap is a great self feeding tool.
Give them food choices (but keep it simple). I talk about effective ways to avoid or diffuse toddler tantrums here. One of the points that I mention is giving your child age appropriate choices. This can be applied to mealtimes as well! I have found that giving my son 3 different choices on his plate has helped with the food battles. Those section plates are GREAT for this very thing! I don’t want to overwhelm him with too many choices as I’ve seen him resort to negative behaviours like throwing things.
Know when it’s time to END the meal and do it. It’s a good indicator for me that mealtime is over when my son starts throwing food. I will stand in front of him to get his attention and ask him (while signing) if he is “all done.” Sometimes I’ll ask and sign if he wants “more.” Chances are he’s done because he’ll continue to throw food, push his plate away or sign back. For me, throwing food ends mealtime because I want him to learn that it’s not ok to behave that way.
Even if he is experimenting (which children at this age typically do with food) I still follow through with removing his tray and we begin cleaning up. No I’m not starving my kid. He gets more than enough to eat trust me! He’s usually happy to be all done and we calmly resume the rest of our day.
Involve Your Child In the Prep Or Clean Up Process. With my toddler, involving him in preparing meals isn’t realistic at this point. I do give him his utensils sometimes and he carries those around while I prepare his plate. You don’t want to know where those utensils end up sometimes! Lets just say I usually have to wash them a few times before mealtime commences.
Whose child screams like a hyena when it’s time to wipe their hands and face? I know my child has! What I’ve been doing to minimize this is I take a small plastic container, fill it with water and help my son wash up with it. Yes, things get a little wet. I still wipe his hands and face with a cloth after but I’ve found the hyena screaming has greatly diminished!
After all these things, my son doesn’t necessarily eat more food. A lot of his food ends up in his lap. But my goal was never to see him eat lots of food. My goals have always been simple. Get him to eat something and do it as peacefully as possible. Some meals still end up being blueberries and popcorn.
Most of the lessons I’m learning as a parent have been through trial and error. So let my mistakes benefit you! We are all imperfect parents just trying to get through each day with one less meltdown, right?
What are some things you do to minimize mealtime battles with your toddler? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!