Toddlers and Family Meal Times

It has been a little bit of time since I had written about working with your child and eating. You all know that I am firm believer in Baby Led Weaning and that is what we did with William starting at 6 months. I plan to do a similar thing with Samuel here starting at the end of August. Over the last 2 years we have worked hard to expose William to wide variety of foods and have him eat whatever we are eating. Baby Led Weaning worked great for us and we really loved the variety and flexibility with feeding William whatever we were eating that day.

No that 6 month old baby has grown into a 2 year old toddler with opinions on food. As my child has gotten older, I am still a firm believer in baby lead weaning and now things are looking a little different with toddler meal times. For example, this morning for breakfast, I made yogurt, topped with chopped strawberries and toast with butter and jam. I had this out on the table for breakfast. When my toddler got to the table he was all upset that I had given that yogurt and he wanted other yogurt. Then he didn’t want toast, he wanted cereal. So we had tears and I informed him that his breakfast was made and he was welcome to eat it and if not then he would be hungry, but this is the meal that mommy made for him.

If you have a toddler, you understand that they want to exert their independence and then they don’t like change. It is a perfect storm if something deviates from a plan and their “freedom” gets “taken away.” This is a learning opportunity though. I could easily could have given my child what he asked for at breakfast, another yogurt and cereal and I would have avoided tears, but then that power shifted from me to my toddler. Then you know the next morning, we could have the same meltdown again. It wouldn’t have been a long term solution.

Please remember, that you are the parent and you should feel empowered at meal time that you provide the food and your toddler decides how much they want to eat. Meal time for toddlers is a balancing act between independence and then following directions. You are welcome to give your child choices, but then once they decide something you have to stick with that decision. The other thing that toddlers are is indecisive. For example I bring snacks for the drive home. We eat an apple and I have been bringing a cheese stick. This afternoon, I offered my toddler his cheese stick and he said “no!” I was like “ok,” got in the front seat and we drove off. He then had a melt down because he wanted a cheese stick. I had to remind him that I had offered it to him and he has refused it. I waited until he calmed down, asked him if he wanted it again, when he said “yes” I reminded him to say “please” and then I gave it to him. Again, in that scenario, I kept reminding him that he had said “no” and refused what I offered. Remember, you as the parent get to decide what the child eats and when they eat it, but the child gets to decide how much or if they refuse.

Toddlerhood can be challenging, but I think the key components from Baby Led Weaning (offering healthy foods, giving 2 choices, deciding when the child gets the food) hold true. Working and teaching the toddler how to communicate what they want and then letting them decide how much they are eating of the offered food item. So if you have toddlers, don’t get discouraged. Stick with your word, don’t back pedal and reassure yourself and your toddler that is the best thing for everyone. Meal time is suppose to be a positive time when everyone is together at the dinner table. Some nights are more positive than others, but even on those rough nights, taking the time to eat together is important.