Fun? Dinner time? The two concepts are not readily associated with each other. In fact, dinner time can be a dreaded time of day for busy families who have almost reached the end of their tether. Trying to get everyone to sit down and eat together can be a huge chore, and it’s tempting to real for the food delivery apps on your phone when all you want to do is put your feet up and not bother.
There’s news. And it’s not just a notification from a delivery partner saying you’ll get 20% off. The news is in – family dinners can be FUN, even if you’ve got toddlers in tow.
Toddlers + Dinner = Trouble
It’s a scene that plays out around the country night after night. Screaming, whinging, over-tired children tormenting their parents and caregivers as they refuse to sit down, refuse to eat and refuse to flat out do ANYTHING that their parents want.
But what if it could better? What if we could make dinner time fun for toddlers?
Here are a few tried and tested tips and tricks that could help ease the pain at your house.
Kids Divided Plates
Make mealtime into a game! Using kids divided plates makes eating fun and interactive. Children can eat various food types and follow along as the shapes twist and turn as they move towards their end goal. Using bite-sized pieces not to overwhelm, parents can fill these divided plates with variants on what the grown-ups are eating or a new meal entirely. Plus? They’re super cute.
Get Them Involved
Have you tried getting toddlers involved in the cooking process? Getting them excited with the hands-on basics of cooking (washing, chopping soft things with an appropriate utensil, measuring, pouring and sifting) can help them become a part of the process. With any luck, they’ll be so proud of their efforts that they’ll come around when it comes to dinner time.
Not cooking? Even better! If it’s take away or a meal delivery service, talk through choices with your tiny tot and get them involved in the process. Have them drive with you to pick it up, or ask them to help answer the door and bring the food inside if it’s a delivery.
Location, Location, Location
Have a look at your setup. Is where your child usually sits the best position for them? Can you play musical chairs to make dinner more entertaining (and gain some fresh perspective from another seat)?
Switching chairs, moving the table’s position, shifting the whole meal to a different room, spreading towels down and having a picnic. Try to mix it up and see if variety truly is the spice of life when making dinner time fun with toddlers.
This one’s a little out there, so hold on.
Does pasta have to be beige? Do potatoes have to be white? Invest in a little food colouring and see if that makes dinner time a bit more fun. Use natural food colouring from real fruit and vegetables and insert it into your cooking process. Maybe a splash of colour is just what the mealtime needs to be a little more inspiring and interesting for your toddler.
Hold On, Mama
Dinner times with toddlers are hard. There are no guarantees that anything will work. What works one day might be the cause of a huge tantrum the next. What will work, however, is you trying to keep your patience and perspective. This isn’t your fault, so don’t beat yourself up. Trying to make dinner time fun for toddlers is trial and error – and you won’t know until you try!
Sandra Sacco is the owner of Little Fenix, a favourite destination for those that value comfort, style and quality in children and baby clothes and accessories. Little Fenix is online and also has a whimsical store based in Melbourne.