So my oldest daughter has always been on the petite side. She eats well, but is very active, and never seemed to put on any significant weight. At one point, her pediatrician actually accused her mother and I of not feeding her, which was downright insulting. Eventually she started gaining weight, and compared to my youngest, she is my “good eater.” Now it is Gabby that wants to take her time with dinner, sometimes eating very little. Since she is currently in the middle of her age’s weight percentile and that her sister eventually snapped out of it, I am not terribly concerned. I just wish that they were not grazers and instead ate whole meals with smaller healthy snacks in between (as opposed to the other way around). Again, thankfully, those snacks usually consist of cottage cheese, grapes, strawberries, carrots with hummus, and deli meat, as opposed to just cereal and gummies. Either way, I try my best to make mealtimes fun in the hopes that they will leave the dinner table with both a smile and a full stomach.
I have already discussed in a previous post how that getting your children involved in the planning and preparation of your meals will lead to them eating more because they are taking part in the process from start to finish (it also becomes an important family activity too). There are other ways to make mealtimes more fun for your little ones so that they do not simply see it as being forced to eat vegetables while talking about your day. The first way that I have found is through picnics, which in our house is pretty much means just having lunch at the park. They may not eat their sandwiches, carrots, and strawberries at home, but it they take them in a lunch bag to the park, a quarter of the food is usually gone before they even hop out of the wagon. For some reason, even though the food is the same, meals at home are boring and repetitious, while meals at the park are new and exciting. Another method that I accidentally stumbled upon was bringing food containers to a park with a sand box. Elaina once asked if she could dump her lunch meat out so that she could use the container to move sand around, so I told her that she could use the container after she had eaten everything within it. While initially disgruntled, Elaina ended up complying because she really wanted to play in the sand. Three empty containers later, the girls were playing in the sand and Dad was happy that his girls ate their lunch.
Another technique that I came across is trying to make mealtimes fun while at the same time incentivizing them to eat. For this, I found a set of plates at a children’s boutique that depict a winding path of serving squares leading to a covered endpoint. There are eight squares for serving their meal and the covered endpoint surprises them with their dessert (the latter is the perfect size for a Hershey’s miniature, a few mini-Oreos, or some M&M’s). They have to eat everything along the path (in any order they choose) before they can have their surprise dessert, and I certainly allow trading squares for something that is more appealing (for instance, if Gabby wants to trade a square of rice for a square of pork tenderloin, it is all good in my book). This makes the meal a game while at the same time giving them a prize for completing their “journey.” It also helps that the plates are themed; Elaina has a fairy-tale plate and Gabby has a super-hero one. It is not revolutionary, but it certainly helps to bring them out once or twice a week to make the dinner experience a little more exciting.
While none of these are guaranteed methods to get your child to eat, they have worked with my girls and I would certainly recommend giving them a try. Please let me know if you have any additional tips for making mealtimes fun. Thanks in advance. Cheers!