Getting your toddler to sit down at the dinner table and eat with you as a family is a task of monumental proportions for most parents, us included! It is something we all want, yet we struggle each day; only to pick up the pieces of our valiant efforts and move on to the next! We even stop going out to restaurants because we hate the looks we get from others – some sympathetic, some politely unapproving while some others rudely hostile! We wish for the toddler years to magically fly by hoping that one day our energetic monkey will simply learn to sit quietly in his seat and finish his meal like a grown-up, well-behaved child.
In her guest post The Power of Family Meals – Tips for Feeding Toddlers, Dr. Kathleen Cuneo offered some tips for making mealtimes a pleasant experience unlike the daily battles most toddler parents are used to. We have been trying some of these ideas, sometimes with success. But there is nothing predictable about our 3-year olds when it comes to mealtime behavior. Recently, however we stumbled upon a trick that seems to have worked a few times. I want to share it with you in this post.
A couple of days back, we took our twins to the community pool, and on our way back stopped by to pick up some pizza we had ordered earlier. As soon as we came home, we got the twins in their high chairs on the dinner table and immediately offered them a slice of their favorite cheese pizza. We got our own plates out and started with our own veggie pizza. A few minutes passed by, and still no one jumped out of their chair! So far so good, I thought – give them a few more minutes then we will see!
Suddenly, without any plan or serious thinking, I started a “question” game with the twins:
And my favorite food is?
PIZZA, shouted out my daughter.
I looked at my son, and asked “And what is your favorite food?”
He stopped, looked at me for a moment, his mouth full of the bite of pizza he had just taken. Holding the half-eaten slice in his hand, he shouted COOKIES! – well no surprises there!!
This is fun, let us keep playing I told myself.
And …. your favorite animal is? I paused as I looked at my daughter.
SHEEP, she answered, obviously remembering her recent favorite stuffed animal.
TRAIN, reflected my son – in his mind, a train was an animal! But hey there is no point debating on this topic with an imaginative 3-year old, right?
And my favorite animal ….I paused….is FISH!
They both looked at me and laughed. By this time, one full slice of pizza had disappeared.
And …… what is your favorite drink?
MILK (daughter), and a few seconds later, Hmmmm….ICE CREAM! (son). (we give him homemade OJ ice cream cup)
And my favorite drink…another pause…is WATER!
By this time, both of them were fully engaged in this game as the whole family enjoyed pizza. Almost 15 minutes had passed and everyone was still in their chairs. Their plates had a second slice of pizza now.
We kept on – the questions and answers kept going in a pattern, first my daughter, then my son, then me and then their mom, who by now seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this spectacle with befuddled amusement.
And …. who is your favorite person?
MOM! cried my daughter. I was so disappointed, but then the sight of mom’s beaming face was a memorable moment!
Eventually, we all finished the pizza. Mom and I even enjoyed a glass of wine!
Looking back, having fun is probably the most important trick of all. Play is the secret ingredient for success at mealtime!
What is your favorite tip for fun at mealtime?
In case you are wondering, the photo of our twins in this post was taken at a Thai restaurant when we went out to celeberate our 10th anniversary this year. It is not often that we find them having so much fun, but when they do, it is nice to have a camera handy!