Have you seen the show Food Wars? Its on the Travel Chanel, and the host travels around the United States and finds two rival restaurants in the same city that serve the same dish. She then has them both prepare that dish and a team of taste testers determine which restaurant makes the dish the best! Sounds fun right?! Recently we have been having Food Wars in our home, only it’s not nearly as fun as the show and often ends in frustration with no winners. May I introduce you to Food Wars: Toddler Edition.
Mom: Daughter, eat your food!
Mom: Eat your food please!!
Mom: If you eat 5 bites you can have some ice cream for dessert!
Mom: ok…4 more bites!
Daughter: I WANT ICE CREAM!!
Mom: You have 3 more bites and you can have ice cream!
Daughter: [Starts to throw fit] ICE CREAM!! ICE CREAM!!
Mom: Ok, one more bite and you can have some ice cream
Daughter: (Takes bite and throws fork) ALL DONE!! I WANT ICE CREAM!!
Oh thank goodness, she ate 1 bite! Wait, didn’t I say 5?? Oh boy, let’s evaluate the situation. So, what started out as Mom saying eat 5 bites ended in 1 bite, a tantrum, and food on the floor.
Daughter for the win.
Please tell me I’m not the only one!! First of all, I know I made mistakes, so let’s pass on the judgment and talk about finding a solution. Eating can be quite the chore with little ones. There are the picky eaters, such as the I-don’t-eat anything-but-PB&J-eaters, there are the ones who find meal time is the best time to strengthen their throwing arm, there are the ones who don’t eat anything at all, and, like my daughter, the just plain stubborn or busy eaters. Baby girl is just so busy she cannot sit very long and eat all her food. It can be so frustrating!!! We have threatened, yelled, done time out, and what was supposed to be nice family time had turned into Food Wars. Mealtime was outright exhausting! Well after the loss of many battles, we found something that has been working for our family.
As you can tell from above, we weren’t very good at counting. So one thing I have learned is when I say 5 more bites, I mean 5 more bites no matter how much she kicks and screams. However, instead of having to put up with the kicking and screaming, and the temptation to give in, I invented a Mealtime chart. Let me first clarify we do not force our daughter to eat something she doesn’t like or does like! This chart was invented for those times when our toddlers have eaten one bite and claims “all done!” Or when you’re feeding them a meal you know she or he likes, and they are just testing you because, well, that’s what toddlers do! Well, the other night I finally just had it! I got up from the dinner table, I grabbed a sheet of computer paper and fervently drew 10 circles about the size of a quarter across the paper. 5 circles on the top and 5 on the bottom. I then grabbed a jar, 10 dried beans, and the Bite Chart was born. I told Baby Girl for every bite she ate, she got to put a bean in the circle. When she filled up her chart, she could be done with dinner or, if dessert is involved, she can have her dessert.
She loved it!! She thought it was so fun putting the beans one by one in the little circles after every bite! Success!! Every once in awhile, this mom has a brilliant idea and this is one of those moments. Not only is it helping her eat and take her bites, it teaches her counting, and helps her fine motor skills. Go Mom!! Cue happy dance. It has been going very well and made meal time easier to bear. We don’t use the chart every time, just when she is being extra defiant as to not have it lose its luster and it seems to be working great this way. I didn’t make the chart very fancy but you can laminate it, put stickers on it, make it all cutesy if you want to help motivate your toddler to eat. For me, I was focused on her eating her bites not how cute my chart was, but maybe later when I have time I can make it better. For now, it works and we are all much happier at meal times.
I also don’t always do 10 bites. Depending how much she’s already eaten, I will cover the other circles and tell her 5 more bites, etc. You can do whatever number you feel comfortable with, and keep in mind the age of your child. Asking a 1-year-old to take 10 bites might be a little much! Use your best judgment! This is what works for us now, and she is doing really good with it. You can definitely cater this to your child! We recently changed from beans to colored macaroni when we noticed she was losing interest, and we are back on the Bite Chart Train and she is eating a lot better!
Dinner time, for us, is our time to gather together and regroup and talk about our day, in particular my husband and I. When he gets home, Baby Girl demands his attention right away so husband and I don’t get much time to talk and ask how our days went. With our family engaging in daily food wars, we were sitting through dinner without saying a word just to get through it. Since we implemented our chart it has gone better and we are all able to talk and share what we call “our favorites” about our day…Baby Girl included! With activities during the week, work, school, etc, there is little time left for families to gather together and talk, so we try really hard to make the best of meal times and sit and talk as a family. I encourage you do to the same. President Ezra Taft Benson (a former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints) said:
“Mealtime provides a wonderful time to review the activities of the day and to not only feed the body, but to feed the spirit as well…”
Dinner time can present so many opportunities to talk and really strengthen family relationships. When we make the time together, our family can grow closer and we are blessed because of it. Good Luck to you in your Food Wars, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Krystal is a latter-day mom and Holy Homemaker to 3 beautiful kiddos who is striving to find joy in the everyday trenches of motherhood and life! Her passion is sharing her experience of decluttering with a purpose to help others create a Holy Home where the messes subside and the Spirit resides. She is a lover of books, nature, music, food, the gospel, and all things Texas! Follow her at her website, Latter-day Mom!