Toddlers and mealtime aren’t always the best combination—let’s be honest, sometimes it’s a disaster. We are always looking for new tips (and a few tricks) to make mealtime less stressful and enjoyable for the whole family. Here are a few of my best tips and tricks to keep my toddler boys engaged during mealtime.
Change up the location
Sometimes mealtime just needs a little refresh. Instead of sitting at the table or in a highchair, let your toddler stand at the counter and eat. They will be delighted at the prospect of standing and eating, giving them a whole new perspective on their food! audwell’s Oslo Learning Tower has become crucial in our household when we host special “Standing Dinners” for the boys. Sometimes just changing up their normal routine and making it feel special allows them to feel more in charge of their meal, and therefore they tend to eat more.
Counting all the little foods
Toddlers love to arrange and rearrange (and rearrange) any and all things into particular orders. Why not let them do it with their food? Serve a meal of “little foods”—blueberries, little cheese cubes, peas, mini crackers—and ask them to line up each food and count before popping it in their mouths. They’ll be so focused on lining up and counting, they won’t even realize they’re eating (bonus: it’s an excellent way to serve all the random leftovers in your fridge).
Let them help prep
At this age, allowing toddlers to feel a sense of independence is important. Ask them to help prep dinner. Give them small tasks like helping mix together ingredients or cut up veggies with a kid-friendly knife (with supervision, of course!). Prep is made much easier with the Oslo Tower too—your kiddo can work right alongside you! When toddlers feel ownership over their meal, they are more likely to sit with it and enjoy it during mealtime.
Create a menu
Before you tell us that this seems a bit overboard, hear us out. Toddlers love choices! No need to create a diner-style menu with endless options. Instead, create little flashcards with options that you were planning on making anyway such as Eggs, Chicken, Pasta, etc. Then allow your toddler to select the meal they want to eat. During dinner, place the card next to their plate and practice going over how to spell the food they’re eating.
Sing it out
Sometimes we all just need a good dance party. The same goes for your toddlers. Play a few good tunes during mealtime and jam out. You can even make it a tradition to start the meal with the same song to kick off eating and wrap it up with another one, indicating that mealtime is officially over. Although we know we don’t need to warn you, it goes without saying that almost every song that toddlers enjoy tends to get very old, very fast!
Give them an audience
We know your little ones are already the center of attention but another way to keep them engaged during mealtime is to give them a new audience. Do they have a favorite stuffed animal? A train set they can’t let go of? Instruct them to line up their favorite objects to watch them eat- mealtime is always more entertaining with a built-in audience!
As the mom of two boys, these are just a few tips and tricks that have helped our family thrive (and sometimes, just survive) during mealtimes. We’d love to hear some of your favorite tips- find us on Instagram @meetaudwell and send us a DM about what works for your family!