Growing up, one thing my parents always encouraged was eating at local establishments…where ever it was we found ourselves. To top off these culinary adventures, my dad has this weird thing where he always orders something on the menu that he is very unlikely to enjoy. The most annoying part of this strange habit is when the food arrives he goes on and on about how great it was until we try it. I always try it. Because my dad did. And I trust me dad. And that is how I became a good eater. By making other people try things first, making sure it did not kill them, and then eating it with the comfort of knowing calamari would, in fact, not kill me.
This is called social eating. This is the same reason you hear your daycare provider call your kiddo a “great eater,” although you are quite sure she has never actually eaten a vegetable. Her friends are doing it, and she trusts them. She wants to be like them. So, she eats what she sees her friends eat.
But how do we get those sweet little ones to eat better at home?! Have no fear super moms! I have a remedy for the problem! Have a lunch play date! (Or as Hank called it a “lunch party.”) The boys and I were super blessed to be invited to have lunch with Kaylee and her crew over at appleofmyivy.com. She was warm and welcoming and her kids were hilarious and adorable!
How does a lunch play date work? Well, I would start by finding a super fun mom you want to talk to and hang out with while your kids feast on deliciousness. This is the most important part. Then plan the menu. Think about what your kiddos like and what you would like for them to eat more of. Hank loves cauliflower but not broccoli. Gus loves grapes but not strawberries. So, I put a dish of veggies with cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, and carrots on the table. And an ice cube tray of strawberries, grapes, blueberries, oranges, and pineapple on the table. I also put mozzarella sticks wrapped in pepperoni along with a few other items I would love for them to enjoy. Having one food presented on the tray that they already trust is a great way to spark their interest
This is going to spark their interest, but unfortunately it probably isn’t going to get them to spontaneously eat it. That is where the friends come in. Hank showed no interest in the hummus until Ivy did. Gus showed no interest in the oranges until Leo did. Do you see what is happening here? Their little buddies inspired trust.
Another important part of making this work is control. Because, after all, that is what every toddler really wants. Use dishes they can pass and manage on their own. They should be able to reach their sweet little hands in there without tipping or breaking a dish. Put away the good China, grab some plastic bowls. And in those bowls, make sure the size of the food is manageable too. If you have a bowl full of large pieces of pineapple that are not “toddler bite size,” they probably aren’t going to take it. It is not likely for a toddler to take a large piece of something they cannot handle and place it on their plate while they wait for someone to come along and help them cut it up. That would require a toddler admitting they were not in control. I do not know about you, but that has never happened in my house, not ever.
The “lunch party” was a success. The kids were fast friends. Hank and Ivy have big plans to play again soon. There has been talk of Barbies, and Hank shamelessly loves Barbies. Leo and Gus seemed to have found a long lost friend. Gus made gross noises and Leo laughed. This was a refreshing change for Gus as typically the only response he gets from Hank is an eye roll. We look forward to seeing Kaylee, Ivy, and Leo again soon!
I have more good news, it is Thanksgiving! And what better time to take advantage of social eating than Thanksgiving. Take the time to point out the hero cousin who is enjoying green bean casserole, or the crazy uncle who is having his second helping of stuffing. Your kiddos trusts these people and even though they are uncles and cousins, your little one considers them their buddies. Although this seems simple and petty, it almost always works.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am especially thankful for all of you this year!