A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food

A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food {via Octavia and Vicky}

Just recently, I felt like three to five times a day I was going into battle. The Toddler Food Battle. A battle of wills over the dining table. It started with forced smiles and over exaggerated excitement about delicious morsels of carefully prepared kid friendly food. It moved on to games and songs and tricks. It disintegrated into frustration and, yes, sometimes tears, as the food inevitably ended up on the floor. More often than not, it ended with one toddler waving his trophy above his head – the much coveted banana.

I have to confess during that time I was so busy with the DOING (the planning, buying, cooking serving, cleaning up) that before I knew it Rocky was almost exclusively eating two foods: banana and yoghurt. I was so concerned with filling his tummy before bed time or naps that I just gave him whatever he wanted. Of course this never actually helped him to sleep!

I could write about how I felt like a failure of a parent, but you know what? I’m not buying into that crap anymore. I was doing my best at the time. But it wasn’t working and it was time to reevaluate. I turned to my one of my favourite sources of advice – the child health nurse hotline.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the advice from the child health nurse that answered the phone that day (bless her, they are all angels, I love them dearly). She suggested good old fashioned grit:

  1. Offer the food.
  2. If rejected, offer the food again.
  3. If rejected, too bad, so sad, no food for you. Repeat at each meal.

Apparently it wouldn’t take long for the toddler to get the idea and start eating what he was offered the first time.

The only thing was that this advice pushed my freak-out-o-meter off the chart. It’s just not my style. I didn’t want to fight anymore, I wanted our dinner table and attitude towards food to be relaxed, for meal times to be happy. So I turned to my old friend, the internet. Other parenting bloggers and Octavia and Vicky readers on Facebook and Instagram had lots of advice for me that was so valuable. Above all the one thing that I heard loud and clear was ME TOO! I’VE BEEN THERE TOO! YOU’RE NOT ALONE! And that was like a big warm hug.

Advice for A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food

  • Let go of the guilt. If they’re eating healthy food, don’t worry so much about what that food is. Build meals based on what they do like to eat – Kate from Picklebums
  • Don’t let others push you into something you’re not comfortable doing. Keep offering a variety and don’t make a big deal out of food – Sarah from We Live We Learn
  • Keep offering a range of foods, ones they like as well new foods, never worry about what they do or don’t eat – Kate from Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
  • If one child is a tricky eater and will only eat certain foods, offer those same foods to the whole family, so it doesn’t seem like they’re getting a special meal – Kate from An Everyday Story
  • Do what you’re comfortable with, try it for a few days or a week and if it’s not working think it over again. Smoothies, veggie muffins and frittatas are great ways to get veggies into kids – Bekka from Just for Daisy
  • Don’t blame yourself, many children are picky eaters. Don’t expect things to change overnight and find the small wins every day – Kate from Laughing Kids Learn
  • Eat dinners as a family, serving everyone the same foods and ask only that they try each food – a try might just mean ‘lick’. Make sure they have enough foods that they enjoy eating on the plate too. Encourage them to describe the taste and texture, rather than focusing on how much they’ve eaten. I often strategically serve the veggies first as they taste better when they’re hot, then serve the meat/carbs after a minute or two – Danya from Danya Banya 
  • If something doesn’t feel right try visiting a naturopath or chiropractor for advice and support – Chelsea from Moments A Day
  • Consider whether your child may have some sensory issues that might be impacting on meal times. Check out these strategies for encouraging sensory processing disorder toddlers to eat – Jodie from Mummy Musings and Mayhem
  • Try talking with a dietician, just for your own peace of mind. In some areas this service is offered for free – Nichole from you clever monkey
  • Focus on lunch instead of dinner – if they eat a good lunch don’t stress so much about what they eat at dinner time. Kids are often tired at dinner time and less likely to want to eat – Jackie from My Little Bookcase
  •  It’s your job to provide healthy food for your child. It’s their job to eat it. i.e. try not to stress, don’t argue with them or make it a battle, provide them with the food at mealtimes and let them eat it or not. They won’t starve themselves – Sara from Happiness is Here
  • We follow a gentle approach with our son. We make sure he’s getting a balanced diet and ask that he tries all the foods put in front of him, but he doesn’t have to eat it all if he doesn’t like it. It’s has been a slow and sometimes stressful road but mealtimes are now pleasant instead of battles, he calmly tries new foods and his tastes are broadening – Ness from One Perfect Day

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Making small, slow changes – and relaxing about food

So where are we at now with Rocky’s eating? We offer him a range of foods that he likes, alongside some new foods. I don’t make a big deal out of whether he eats or not. If he stops eating or starts throwing his food then that’s the end of the meal time and we try again next time. We feed him small, regular meals, to keep him hungry. Now he’s eating toast! He’s eating crackers! He’s eating meat! He’s eating lasagna! And yes, he’s still eating his favourite bananas and yoghurt. Just a lot less of them.

More on toddlers and food

These articles and blogs were also really helpful to me and recommended by readers and friends. I hope you find them helpful too.

Is your toddler a fussy eater? What has worked for you?

Baking the Alphabet

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

The weather is turning cooler and I’m loving it. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the cold weather, the colder the better! I think perhaps I should have been born in a much cooler climate, Australia is too hot for me!

Cold weather means more comfort foods like casseroles, soups, dumplings, mash and PIES. I was inspired (yet again) by Beth’s yummy recipes and we made her chicken pot pies. They were DELISH and I’ll definitely be making those again.

Pebble was keen to help and loved placing the pastry on top of the pies and brushing them with milk. Each pie was lovingly topped with a pastry in the shape of our family member’s first initial, and Pebble thought that was the best bit ever. We had some pastry left over and made more letters, with me cutting out the shapes and Pebble painting them with milk.

I asked Pebble which letters she wanted to make as we went along and she delighted is seeing the shapes emerge from the pastry. She sprinkled a few with cheese to make them extra tasty. Then it was time to pop them in the oven and start baking the alphabet.

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky} Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky} Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Where was Rocky while this was going on? He was kept busy with the age old toddler distractor – the plastics cupboard! It never fails :)

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Eight more ideas for learning letters and sounds in the kitchen:

Want more fun ideas for kids? Just download your copy of the Three to Five Playful Preschool ebook. Watch the 30 second video and buy your copy now or find out more.


Three to Five Playful Preschool ebook - 25+ Playful Preschool Activities
More literacy ideas from Octavia and Vicky:

Multisensory Activities for Learning Letters {via Octavia and Vicky}

Custom Alphabet Play Dough Mats

Baby Travel Tips: Feeding a Six Month Old {Giveaway}

Baby Travel Tips - Ideas for Feeding a Six Month Old

Sponsored by Ella’s Kitchen

Baby Travel Tips - Ideas for Feeding a Six Month Old

Has it really been almost three weeks since Rocky, Grandma and I headed up to the Gold Coast for the Problogger conference? What an adventure, for all of us! I spent my days networking and learning. Grandma and Rocky spent their days going for walks and zipping back and forth between our hotel and the conference (because my boobs aren’t detachable. If only!).

Rocky chose this particular weekend to decide that he really, really wanted to eat ‘real’ food. He loves his milk (both breast milk and formula – greedy little thing!) but he had developed a new found love of solids. At home I had been slowly introducing new foods using a baby led weaning approach. By the time our trip came around Rocky was gnawing on broccoli, carrots, chicken, lamb chops, cucumber, cheese, strawberries, mandarins, pears, squash, toast… pretty much anything I could throw at him. But he wanted MORE.

I started adding some spoon food into his diet, like natural yoghurt, mashed banana, mashed avocado and mashed veggies. He couldn’t get enough of the stuff!

So, we were about to board a plane and stay in a little apartment for a few days. I was going to be busy at a conference all day. We needed to make the food simple. Here’s how we managed feeding a six month old baby while travelling.

Baby Travel Tips: Feeding a Six Month Old

Baby Travel Tips - Feeding a Six Month Old BabyResearch

  • find out where your local supermarkets or fresh food markets are before your trip, and figure out how you can get there. If you can’t get there easily, find out what food can be delivered to your accommodation. We had two major supermarkets in walking distance from our hotel, so we were good to go!

Baby Travel Tips - Feeding a Six Month Old Baby

Plan

  • book a hotel that makes it easy for you. We booked an apartment that included a small kitchen with a microwave, sink and stove top.
  • make a shopping list for simple, easy to prepare foods.
  • pack a few ready to eat foods for the trip. We stocked up on Ella’s Kitchen organic fruits and vegetables.
  • don’t forget to pack spoons, bibs and wipes. Six month olds sure know how to spread their lunch around!
  • if you need to use bottles, try using tetra packs of formula and disposable (recylcable & BPA free) bottles. This avoids having to lug around all the sterilising equipment.
  • double check your airlines baggage allowances for babies. Most will allow your baby their own carry on bag, so there’s plenty of room for you to carry all your bits and pieces.

Baby Travel Tips - Feeding a Six Month Old Baby

Keep it Simple

  • you don’t need to provide a five star buffet. I originally had planned to prep all my own meat and veggies every day while we were away. As if that was actually going to happen! Rocky ate toast, bananas and yoghurt for breakfast and fruit and veggies for lunch and dinner, thanks to Ella’s Kitchen.
  • strip the baby! Lucky for us the Gold Coast has gorgeously warm weather. Rocky was very comfy wearing just his nappy, which made cleaning up after meals so much easier. I only recommend this tip for warm climates though!

Ella’s Kitchen Giveaway

Ella's Kitchen Giveaway

Thanks to Ella’s Kitchen I have two prize packs worth $50 each to give away. Each pack contains one up-cycled lunch bag, an Ella’s Kitchen bib and a selection of pouches from the Ella’s Kitchen range.

To enter just tell me what was your baby’s favourite first food?

This is a game of skill and entries will be judged based on creativity and originality. Open to Australian residents only. Entries close Wednesday, 9th October, 2013.

Finger Foods for Babies

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Sponsored by Fisher-Price

Baby Rocky is LOVING his finger foods. We started introducing solids about a week before he turned six months old and he has not stopped eating since. Anyone would think I had been starving him! He will eat pretty much anything I throw at him which has really encouraged me to offer him lots of new bits and pieces to try.

We are using a baby led weaning approach, which means lots of finger food and some spoon food offerings, like yoghurt, mashed banana and mashed veggies. Rocky is most happy when he’s got two fistfuls of food and a spoon headed for his face :) I thought you might like to try some of Rocky’s favourite finger foods with your baby at home.

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Finger Foods for Babies

Pita bread and guacamole

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes - Pita Bread and Guacamole
Pita Bread and Guacamole Dip

Rocky loves flavour. When I offered him plain avocado he ate it, but he really wasn’t that into it. Then I gave him some of my dinner one night (or he snatched it out of my hand, however you like to look at it!). We were having wraps and he munched on my pita bread spread with guacamole. He couldn’t get enough of the stuff! To prepare, just warm the pita bread in the oven, wrapped in foil, until it’s gently warm and nice and soft (check the heat before offering it to baby!). For the guacamole, mash together the flesh from one avocado, half a peeled and grated garlic clove and a squeeze of lemon juice. Spread the guacamole on to triangles of pita bread and watch the demolition commence.

Chickpea patties

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes - Chickpea Patties
Chickpea Patties

This tasty little morsel fits right into a hungry fist. I adapted this recipe from the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook using a stick blender, which makes it so easy to throw together. Grab a bowl and chuck in one tin (400g) of drained and rinsed chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin, 1 onion (chop it in half or quarters), the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of flour and a little bit of black pepper. Blitz with the stick blender until smooth, then shape into fist sized patties and pan fry in a tiny bit of oil. The whole family ate these for dinner, they were so delish (ok, Pebble tasted them – which is called winning around here).
Tip: Pop the mixture into the fridge for an hour or so before shaping into patties. It will come together much more easily.

Parmesan chicken fingers

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes - Parmesan Chicken Fingers
Parmesan Chicken Fingers

What kid doesn’t love nuggets? You can make your own healthy version that any hungry baby, child or adult will devour. Just slice a chicken breast into long, finger sized pieces (about 5cm in length allows bubs to easily grab one end and gnaw on the other). Coat the chicken fingers in natural yoghurt, then roll in a mixture made of equal quantities breadcrumbs and finely grated parmesan cheese. Bake in a hot oven (200 Celsius/400 Fahrenheit) for 15 – 20 minutes, turning once.

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Since having kids we’ve tried a few different high chairs, at home, at friends houses and at cafes. I have simple needs – I like a high chair that’s safe, easy to clean and adjustable.

Lucky me, as Fisher Price Play Ambassador I was sent the Grow With Me High Chair to try out. Tough gig, right?

Pebble was pretty excited to see the big box arrive on our doorstep and had fun ‘helping’ me put it together. The Fisher Price Grow With Me High Chair meets ticks all my boxes and has a few extra features that are quite nifty. The grippy tray keeps plates, bowls and snacks from slipping all over the place and the different height options make it easy for children to join the family at the table.

Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes Baby Finger Food Recipes - Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Rocky was nice and comfy in the Grow With Me High Chair at dinner time. The tray is in just the right spot to catch all his dropped bits and pieces, and can easily be adjusted to allow more space for his round tummy as he grows. The tray also removes completely, which is perfect for toddlers who want to eat dinner at the table like a big kid, without needing a booster seat or a pile of wobbly cushions. The legs can also be adjusted to allow for different table heights. Pebble gives it a big thumbs up! She’s been using the Grow With Me High Chair to sit comfortably at the table to draw, eat and do puzzles.

Fisher Price Grow With Me High Chair - Perfect for Babies and Toddlers 2 Fisher Price Grow With Me High Chair - Perfect for Babies and Toddlers

The only problem I’m going to have with this high chair is two kids fighting over who gets to sit in it!

Giveaway

Would you like to win a Fisher Price Grow With Me High Chair? Just tell me what is the silliest/funniest/weirdest thing you’ve ever done to try and get your kids to eat their dinner.

This is a game of skill and entries will be judged based on creativity and originality. Open to Australian residents only. Entries close Saturday, 28th September, 2013.

Looking for more family food ideas?

Printable Family Meal Planner Quesadillas - Cooking with Kids - Family Dinners Lentil and Vegetable Lasagne - Cooking with Kids - Family Dinners