Building a better dinner

The more teeth Baby grows, and the better her ability to hold a fork gets, the more foods should be open to her, and to your dinner table, right? Unfortunately, the path to solid foods doesn’t always go in a straight line, and some of the stops along the way can make dinner time, the crown jewel of mealtimes, a little more difficult.

Variations on the favorite ingredient

Toddlers can be very single-minded people, which is great when they’re teaching themselves motor skills, but can be a little harder for parents to deal with when they’re picking the same book for storytime seven times in two hours, or asking for the same dinner for a week and a half. For some toddlers, that exact same meal is non-negotiable, but a few are open to a little negotiation – sure, chicken might be her got-to-have right now, but can some of the chicken left over from last night go onto a pizza with vegetables and cheese, instead of being the centerpiece of the meal? Can those green peas she likes so much go into an alphabet soup, or a pasta sauce? Baby may have the occasional fixation, but sometimes, with a little luck, those fixations can turn into something more like cooking challenges than true ruts.

Can you give it ears?

Okay, so dinner food doesn’t have the same built-in opportunity for fun packaging or silly presentation that breakfast and lunch do, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun meal, too! For one thing, dinner has the potential to be the least-rushed meal of the day. Playing with food gets a bad rap, but giving Baby the chance to enjoy mealtime can help to keep things running smoothly. Like bathtime, meals are something Baby will always need to do, but whether she does them angrily and reluctantly, or as a fun, exciting part of the day is up to her – and up to you.

Pizzas look as good with bunny ears as pancakes do, broccoli trees can add a little natural beauty to the landscape of Baby’s plate, and pasta that could be bowties, wagon wheels, or curlicues can keep dinnertime an adventure, even if preparing a Pinterest-worthy plate isn’t exactly your style.

Jumping to conclusions

Maybe there are some foods you feel like you don’t even need to try to feed Baby – you already know she won’t go for them. That’s fine – but try offering whatever-it-is to Baby anyway. She might surprise you, and the expectation that she might not like certain types of foods can plant the idea in her head, too. That’s certainly not the root of all toddler-pickiness, but being given a range of options, with no expectation as to which of them she will like can be a great way to start to combat any pickiness.

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