Welcome back to toddler dinners. I took a week off because I didn’t take pictures over Thanksgiving. Sue me. So this week I have a special treat for you guys!
I would like to introduce Jill. Jill and I have a weird history. Her husband and my husband used to work together years ago. They weren’t even married at the time. I think Kevin had moved to a new position by the time they were married. I think my mother in law went…but I could be wrong. We were actually married by the same glorious Rev. Craig that we all love dearly! I know I am rambling. Anyways, this was all I knew of Jill. THEN last year I show up to a birthday party for another friend and BAM there she is…with her adorable Holly. Small world! Fast forward to later this year and BAM there she is on my twitters…then on my Facebook (yeah “official” and junk). And that is where I saw the magic I am about to share with you. A number of you always comment that I make crazy looking food for LT. The octopus dog…the kabobs…a smiley face of blueberries on a waffle. It doesn’t take but a second and makes food fun. Why not? Well, Jill takes the cake. I mean check out these bad boys:
Well I asked Jill to explain her story. Why does she do it? How does she do it? Does Holly love it? I was curious and I think her response is fantastic. Everyone loves a little whimsy so take it away Jill!
My almost 3 year old has always been a decent eater, for the most part. She’s gone through spells of picky-ness, and has been known to turn up her nose at something one day that she gobbled down the day before. But I consider that to be the norm, considering I’m pretty sure that most toddlers I know are bipolar.
I’ve always tried to incorporate as much variety into her diet as possible, and introducing new things has produced plenty of hits as well as plenty of misses. But sometimes, with a toddler, all you want is for the kid to EAT THEIR DAMN FOOD! Ahem… I mean, actually enjoy their dinner without piles of this and that ending up in the trash after all the bargaining and bribing fails. I could feed her nothing but pasta, strawberries, and Trader Joe’s white cheddar puffs for a sure winner at every meal, but like I said–we need some variety.
Enter yogurt man and fruit flower…
I did this one time on a whim, just to be silly. It was very positively received. The squeals and giggles it produced made a monster out of me. Since then, I’ve been “playing with her food” on a regular basis.
I’ve made bears out of pancakes, puppy dogs out of PB&J sandwiches, bugs out of chicken nuggets, and ice cream cones out of scrambled eggs (with sprinkles!) Since she’s started learning her letters, I’ve started adding words to her meals (cheese, etc, cut out with small letter cookie cutters). I’m basically making her a baby genius through her breakfast, I just know it!
I have a cabinet full of cookie cutters (I’ll admit, I’ve become a bit obsessed—hubby would agree), food picks, cute containers, and quite an assortment of sprinkles. Something as simple as cutting that cheese quesadilla into a train shape with a cutter makes a meal exponentially more fun, for just a couple of added minutes to the prep time.
I’ve gotten mixed response about doing this—from “I love that! What a great idea” to (insert snarky judgy tone here) “You have too much free time on your hands.” Truth is, I’m a full time working mom, I assure you I will never have enough free time on my hands. Doing this fun little thing honestly takes just minutes. I’ll admit sometimes I go to bed thinking about what I’m going to do with the next day’s breakfast. And I get plenty of my ideas from Pinterest, and several Bento and fun lunchbox blogs. And I do not do this for every meal–not even one meal every day. I’d say I average 3-5 fun meals per week. She is still happy to eat regular ol’ food slapped on a regular ol’ plate. So, I haven’t ruined her, haters.
The truth is, the kid was impressed at first but she’s used to it now. She still really enjoys it, but it doesn’t yield the squeals it used to. At this point, I just as much do it because I enjoy it myself. I don’t see the little one in the mornings because I leave for work before she wakes up. So making fun breakfasts is one little way of showing my love since I can’t give her a hug in person. I’m a crafty person by nature, and this is just an extension of that. Food is my art. My medium is blueberry mini waffles.
Check out my creations here.
Some super easy tips:
-Sprinkles!—Seriously, add some sprinkles to some yogurt/applesauce/eggs/green beans/whatever, and that stuff will be GONE! (Yes, I know this adds sugar, but the amounts are really minimal. I’m talking just like a ½ teaspoon or so for color. Live a little).
-Adding a small treat—I’ll add something small like a few yogurt raisins or chocolate chips, a single cookie, couple of mini marshmallows, whatever. I’ll even let her eat it first–who cares? It sets a happy tone for meal time.
-Cute plates and serving pieces–we love sectioned plates, silicone cups, and small dishes, like an individual mini syrup pitcher for her pancakes!
-Color– the more color I use in a “scene,” the more appealing it is to the little one. It also helps with variety in her food.
-Fun add-ons—sometimes all I will do is arrange a plate of food nicely, then stick a cute animal pick in a sandwich. Seriously. That takes one second.
-”Toddler Tapas”—I’ll use small silicone cups, or even muffin tins, and fill each cup with a small amount of something different. Great for nibbling, and great for introducing new stuff, or something that might be a long shot. If it’s just a bite, you won’t be wasting much if he rejects it and you have to throw it away.
Now, go play with your food!