My kids are now almost two—and part of me has no idea how that happened. It seems like just a month or two ago, we were starting solid foods. And working on sleeping through the night. And outgrowing the bucket carseats. However, since they’re not infants anymore, they do lots of fun toddler activities. One activity they go to is an Early Intervention playgroup. They have a blast there—there’s a gross motor room (think slides and swings), free play in the classroom, circle time, snack time and art. Oh, don’t even get me started on the time they did fingerpaints. Oh. My. Lord. My kids were about 18-19 months. Imagine. There was fingerpaint in hair, mouth and decorating a cute little shirt which used to sport the name of the college both Daddy and I attended—without green paint.
So, perhaps you’re thinking—this doesn’t have a lot to do with food? Then, let me get to the point. During each group, there is a snack time. Snack time takes place at the table (without sippy cups–eep!) and the kids are offered two types of snacks. The teachers show the kids both snacks and ask, “Do you want applesauce, cracker or both”. My kids? They always want “both”. Of course they do, as they love eating out. When we started group, they also enjoyed eating most foods at home too. However, since then, they have developed into typical toddlers. A bit finicky. A bit tantrum-y. Very indecisive. So challenging.
In the last month, mealtimes have become a headache. They are requesting certain foods, then refusing to eat them. Foods they used to love get a (screamed), “No!!! No!!! No!!!” along with a violent head shake, in case Mommy is a bit slow and didn’t realize that they didn’t want that food choice. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. It’s not pretty. And I really am not an idiot. I don’t prepare six types of food for them. I don’t let them have cookies for dinner. But, it’s still frustrating. And when they’re hungry and grouchy, I get pretty grouchy myself, fairly quickly.
So, one day this week I decided to take the EI approach. I offered two choices (pasta & pear). The kiddos? They wanted, “Both”. And got really excited about it. Hmm. Since then, this has been what happens at every meal. They have eaten foods I haven’t seen them eat for months—turkey meatloaf (somehow feeling a bit wrong since we were JUST watching the wild turkeys out the window), pasta with tomato sauce, kidney beans, black beans, red pepper, cornbread….it’s all excited when they get to pick both. They’re eating much healthier and more balanced meals. And there’s almost no yelling. Maybe those Early Intervention teachers know what they’re doing. Hmm….perhaps I am a bit slow after all, since it’s taken me months to think to try this approach at home.
Anyway, I thought I’d offer up this technique in case others with toddlers were experiencing the same joy around mealtimes that I was. Oh, and a bonus? My two slow-to-speak kids? They can now say “both” very clearly.