Today we went to a traditional Chinese restaurant that had a variety of great things to eat. I ordered for the little guy first, assuming that he would quickly eat like usual and then he would whine at me while I ate under stress. Sounds fun, right? I ordered fried rice, which he usually likes, and fried green beans with minced pork, which he had & loved one other time.
30 minutes later, we were finishing our meal, as the little guy ate virtually the whole dish of green beans, followed by cucumbers (of course). He ate and ate and ate, and that was really fun to see. To make things easier, we had one other toddler there who sat opposite the table from him, and they kept seeing the other eating, so they continued.
Then at dinner, we had some Tikka Chicken with yogurt sauce for the little guy to dip in. Again he loved it, along with the “rice balls” (rolling regular rice into bite-sized balls) that he could also dip into the sauce, or act like he was doing so.
And it was then that it dawned on me something that is so common sense that I can’t believe I have not figured this out earlier:
It is not enough for the food to taste good. It must also be fun for him to eat, too.
He ate the green beans because they fit those two criteria. He ate the dinner tonight because it fit those two criteria. He ate regular sized slices of pizza the other night because it fit those two criteria. He did not eat yesterday’s lunch because it was uninspiring to him. He did not eat the fried rice today because it was not fun. And so on.
I guess there are times when the proportion of taste to fun do not have to be equal. For example salmon and potatoes with peas. That is his favorite meal, and he will eat it anytime. But the peas make it more fun for him, so if I want him to eat ALL the food, then I’ve gotta make sure the peas are there.
I think the important thing to note here is that I am not saying that toddlers must play with toys, their food, or do some weird games while eating. What I am saying is that if the meal itself is fun because it is a new and different flavor, or there is a hands-on element, or whatever your toddler enjoys, then there is a higher chance that the meal will be eaten, and that the meal will be enjoyable by the parents, too. I guess it seems like the little guy goes into his own “having fun while eating” zone, and that allows me to eat and talk too.
One other thing that I have changed this week is that I am putting less pressure on him at meal times. So, for example I will simply make something available by getting it out and placing it there with no pressure. This could be snacks or meals. So by having no pressure, then it is he who is controls the situation rather than me, and therefore he will eat. So maybe it is the combination of fun + taste + no pressure (or maybe the no pressure makes it easier to have fun?).
So, all-in-all it is nice to see the little guy eating again more regularly. It could be simply that he is not teething anymore and his appetite’s back, but I think it can’t hurt to think about how interesting a meal that is in front of him is – after all, we encourage exploration and discovery all day long – this surely happens at meal times too, right?