While my 1-year-old has not yet entered the true picky toddler stage, he did experience his first mealtime tantrum the other night. Let me share with you how it went down.
After a full day at daycare, I sat my tired baby down for dinner. On the menu was vegetable stir fry with rice and some kiwi on the side. After sitting in the chair for less than one minute, he started to yell “Bamba, Bamba, Bamba.” My husband turned to me to ask if he should get him some Bamba. My response was “sorry, that’s not on the menu.” The yelling escalated and turned into crying and then into a full-on meltdown. There was no coming back from it. I thought the meal was a failure and that we would have to just move on to bedtime.
As I started to remove him from the chair I thought about the fact that I didn’t get a chance to finish my own meal. I decided to sit him in my lap to see if he would calm down while I took a few bites of food. It worked! He was even watching me eat and was looking interested. I offered him a bite of fruit (I decided to start with a safe food that I know he liked). He accepted it! Then another and another. I switched to a piece of tofu and that worked as well. He was on a roll! After a few more bites I took a risk and transferred him back to his high chair. He went in happily, and, to our surprise, began to take bites from his own plate. He continued to eat for about five minutes and then declared he was done using his adorable “all done” sign language. It worked like a charm!
I know I won’t always have success stories to share, but here are my main takeaways for you from this experience:
1. Make mealtimes enjoyable! If your child is not happy at the table, try to change that. Whether it is through food play, singing songs or having them sit on your lap in order to get them to stay at the table, try to be creative.
2. Hold firm to the menu. The more you get up from the table to offer alternatives the more you are teaching your child that they are in charge of the menu, not you. This should not be the case!
3. The amount of food that gets eaten at a specific meal is less important than the average your child eats over the course of a day or week.