Dinner winner: 7 tips that got our toddler to eat

My sweet Little Bean (which is one of her many nicknames, and much less visually confusing than “A”.) has been challenging at the dinner table, but we seem to have gotten into a good routine lately.  After lots of stress about food, we’ve found a few things that work for us.

1) Give a very small portion on her plate, and have extra set aside to top it up. Too much food on a plate can be overwhelming visually, and seems daunting.  She seems to enjoy it better when she can clear her plate and then ask for more.

2) Everyone at the table eats the same thing, and we sit down and eat together as a family. Seeing hubby and I eating something will encourage her to give it a try. Sometimes she prefers to sit on our laps and eat right off our plates, which is also okay, though not always convenient.

3) If she gets dramatic about not eating something, stay calm and don’t give attention to it. Instead, turn conversation to anything else – toys, her day, whatever – and keep eating.  This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when she’s shouting “I don’t want it!” and turning her head and flailing her arms in front of her face.

4) Include her in the dinner conversation. It’s a family meal, and when she gets to participate I find everything goes more smoothly.  Even when it’s just asking her what sounds an animal makes.

5) Try presenting things differently. Little Bean HATES cooked vegetables but loves them raw. With pasta, she prefers the noodles plain, and having the sauce on the side like a dip. Even cutting things into different shapes, or steaming instead of pan-frying, or just organizing on the plate can make a difference.

6) Remember that she knows when she feels full, and respect that. This is the hardest for us, since my daughter has always been at the bottom of the growth chart for weight and eating has been a HUGE stressor for hubby and I. But, also, announcing that she’s full means that she’s done, and doesn’t get to snack later outside of her normal routine. She still has to sit at the table and hang out with us if we’re not done eating. We leave the table at the same time. Sometimes she’ll pick at what’s on her plate some more, which is fine. We’ll leave it out for her until we’re all done and put all the dishes away at the same time.

7) NO tech at the table. No phones, no TV, nothing. It’s our time to connect with each other, to talk and make eye contact. This is NOT negotiable in our house.

It has taken some trial and error to get to this point.  Dinner time is still not flawless, but it has improved a lot.

What tips or tricks would you suggest for a picky eater?

Enjoying a Canada Day poutine with daddy.

Enjoying a Canada Day poutine with daddy. Photo courtesy Daddy’s Twitter account.

Big wheels keep on turnin’

Our little bean is two and a half now. Even though I haven’t posted much, she has changed and grown so much.

A big thing has been figuring out how to jump off of things. She is a bit of a daredevil sometimes, and was inspired by another girl in her gymnastics class. At the end of class, the kids sometimes get to play in a pit full of foam blocks. A girl had her mom help her up onto a big block so she could leap in to the pit. Seeing this, A wanted up on the block but then slid off her bum into the pit. The following week, though, holding one of my hands, she jumped right in! Of course, now she also likes jumping off her stool in the kitchen, too, so it’s a mixed blessing, but it’s wonderful to watch her try new things and learn new skills.

Today was another milestone: her first tricycle!  Hubby managed the “some assembly required” portion of the experience, and then we went outside.  We’re still working on using the pedals, but we’re off to a great start!

Red Tricycle for the win!

A whole new year

I wrote this back in February and never realized that it didn’t post! Here’s a little blast from the past, then, as we’re about to start June.

We’re a month into 2015 already and it’s hard to believe that A is already two years old. She is still announcing it’s her birthday, even though it was the end of December.  Our little bean is officially a toddler.  Nothing shows this more than her favourite new mealtime phrase: I don’t want it.

She had a small birthday party with family, and got spoiled rotten. Her favourite gifts by far is were from Daddy: a keyboard which has a multicoloured disco ball that lights up when it’s on, and an Etch a Sketch-style drawing board.  Another favourite gift is a baby doll.  As a joke, Hubby mimicked the doll saying no when A tried to feed her, to show her how annoying it is when A refuses to eat  Unfortunately, this backfired and now her favourite game with the doll is “baby say no!”

We’re at the stage now where A says some pretty entertaining things. She has some favourite foods, including raisins. One snack time, after me telling A that she had eaten enough raisins, she turned to Hubby and said, “How about Daddy give the raisins?” This was the first time we saw her try this, and we were amused and intrigued by this strategy. (She didn’t get the raisins. 🙂 )

She also came up with this the other day:

Sometimes you drink.
Sometimes you cry.
Sometimes you get down.

It sounded to me like lines from a country song.  The context: she was sitting up on a kitchen chair with her sippy cup. Perhaps she can set it to music with her new keyboard.

Daddy daughter jam session

Daddy daughter jam session

My budding comedienne

My daughter has a very well-developed funny bone, and she loves to make us laugh.

It all started a few months ago, when A learned that sticking her tongue out would get a laugh. Hubby and I would return the gesture, and we would all end up in fits of giggles.  She also has a great fake laugh which makes her sound like a haughty grandmother.

On her favourite show, Yo Gabba Gabba, there is occasionally a segment called Funny Faces, where the kids who are guests on the show make funny faces for a few minutes, to a cute 8-bit soundtrack. This taught A that she could add to her repertoire, and she started jamming her fingers into her cheeks while sticking her tongue out. Not long afterwards, she started hooking her fingers in the sides of her mouth and pulling her mouth wide, sometimes while sticking her tongue out.

Now she’s added knock knock jokes to her repertoire. It started with this:

A: Knock knock!

Me: Who’s there?

A: A! (her first name)

Me: A who?

A: (her full name)!

Once she felt confident in this one, she started experimenting. Her latest is this:

A: Knock knock!

Me: Who’s there?

A: Elephant.

Me: Elephant who?

A: Toot!

She told this one to hubby on Saturday and he burst out laughing. She was so proud of this one that she has told it a few times since. I agree that she should be proud, and I’m excited that she’s being creative with her humour. She is a very happy, cheerful child most of the time, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Funny Faces

Stirring the dry ingredients

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!  I have so many things to be thankful for, starting with my wonderful family.  We are all happy and healthy, and that really is a lot to be thankful for.  I’m thankful for our cozy home, our two ridiculous dogs, and the love and support of our extended family, both blood relations and the chosen relations. I’m thankful for the small things too: the last crop of raspberries from our back yard; the fun creative outlet that is making jewellery; and, those deliciously quiet moments where everyone else is napping.

I originally wanted to do something exciting today with the family, since hubby and I are both enjoying the long weekend.  I thought of going out somewhere, but couldn’t decide on anything that A would really enjoy.  So, we stayed in and have been playing and enjoying time together at home.  It wasn’t all playing with the Little People farm and banging on A’s drum – I took a look through the pantry and found all the ingredients we needed to make some banana bread!  I got A to help by pouring ingredients into her bowl and stirring the dry ingredients, which she did with much care.  I brought her little table into the kitchen so it would be at the right height, and she loved helping out almost as much as she enjoyed tasting the finished product! Those who know me know I’m not much of a baker, but if it helps get A enthusiastic about the kitchen and preparing food, I’m willing to learn.

Stirring the dry ingredients

Stirring the dry ingredients, most of which stayed in the bowl.

Girls, strength, and the beauty ideal: A beach conversation

My daughter is just 20 months old right now, and I find myself thinking about how to help her, in the future, focus on all the cool things she can do, and not just how she thinks she looks in the eyes of others. She’s so full of self-confidence and curiousity and tenacity that I want to do everything I can to protect and nuture it. This question is something I’ll put in my back pocket and save for when it’s needed.

Dr. Rebecca Hains

My five-year-old son befriended an eleven-year-old girl at the beach last week. As they worked together to create a sand castle, her dad and I chatted about my work as a media studies professor and his work as a high school art teacher.

“So, you said your research is about body image?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

“You know, my passion is figure drawing,” he said, “but it’s difficult to teach to high school students today. They just don’t have realistic ideas about the female body.”

“Oh, in what way?” I asked.

“Teenagers don’t know what real bodies look like any more,” he lamented. “They have a preconceived idea in their heads—a bias that they can’t see past. I can see in their drawings that they’re not seeing. So they complain: ‘Hey, Mr. Richards, how come all your women have muscles? They look like men. That’s gross.'”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Your students think…

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Dear A: 19 months old and completely awesome.

Hello, my dear! I haven’t written anything in a while and that’s a shame, since so much has been happening.

Any time there’s good weather your daycare provider takes you out to the park for an hour or so. You enjoy the swings and the slides, but your favourite is digging in the sand. You love to make sand castles and dig and put handfuls of sand on the play structure. You even say “sand castle” when you see your park toys.

You’ve been having a great time at gymnastics. The trampoline is still your favourite area, and you can jump with both your feet and keep your balance like a pro. This week you walked along a short balance beam, holding my fingers for reassurance more than support. You get along well with your only classmate, Max. You love to hand him a ball you are playing with, and say his name. A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to go, he leaned in with puckered lips and so you did the same. We never expected you’d have your first kiss so young! It was absolutely adorable.

You seem to have overcome your fear of strange adults. You are still shy at first, but if Daddy or I interact with them, you will eventually warm up to them too. You love other children, and have been getting to meet the kids of Daddy’s and my friends. You remember their names, and can pick out who they are in photos, too. I’m pretty impressed by your memory.

You can also remember a ton of words. You’re stringing together 3 or 4 words now, and still continue to use the signs with spoken words. You’ve got a huge vocabulary, and pick up new words pretty effortlessly.  You love to repeat what Daddy and I say, too, and you’ve picked up some expressions, like “Awesome!”  It’s a treat hearing you testing out your new words.

Meals are still a bit challenging, though we’ve figured out some strategies to get you to try what’s on your plate. You’ll try almost anything once, but will have nothing to do with tomatoes. You’ve also decided that, instead of eating only green vegetables, you would rather eat veggies of any other colour instead. You have also realized that your sippy cup straw makes a great pea catapult. Our dog Phoebe loves this discovery as much as you do.

You’re growing, too, and you are getting to be such a big girl. We’re lucky that you’re starting to wear a new size of clothes right at the edge of a new season.  You are still quite petite for your age, but you’re so healthy and strong and agile and clever that Daddy and I have stopped worrying about your size and embrace the fact that you must just be meant to be small.  You are fabulous just as you are.

Building Sandcastles

Building Sandcastles

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Snack Time Edition

Hubby and A have a new routine: when they get home after he picks her up from daycare, they share a muffin. It’s an easy snack food, she likes muffins, and any time we can get her to eat, it’s a win. Hubby takes special pleasure from sharing meals with A, so it’s a nice way for them to share some time together before I get home.

Yesterday, as usual, Hubby went to A’s daycare to pick her up. Like usual, he chats with the caregiver about how the day went, what she did, if she napped well, and so on. After a couple minutes, A turns to the front door and says, “Bye bye. Muffin.”  All this talk was keeping her from muffin time with Daddy, and we can’t have that. 🙂

Hubby and A

Dear A: 18 months old already!

It has been ages since I wrote, and so much has happened in the past few months.
You’re a very confident walker now and love to wander around the neighborhood, pointing out cars and flowers, and picking up handfuls of sand to let run through your fingers. Speaking of sand, you love going to the park with us and with your daycare. You like the swings and slides, but your favourite thing is to dig in the sand. You dig with a little shovel, or put handfuls on the shovel and then dump it over. You sometimes grab handfuls of sand and dump them on the bottom of the slide, and then swipe it off again.  Watching you play is fascinating, and Daddy and I love seeing you discover the world around you.
You started gymnastics class, and I think it’s the perfect activity for you.  The first day you were a bit shy, taking the measure of your instructor and the other little boy in the class.  This weekend, for your second class, you were ready to jump in and you had a great time.  Your favourite part was the trampoline area, and you love throwing a ball around and chasing it while jumping around.  You’re remarkably coordinated for your age, and can jump with both feet at the same time.  I’m so happy that you are enjoying it so much.
We don’t spend much time watching TV, but you do have one show that you ask for by name: Yo Gabba Gabba.  It’s fun and full of energetic music that you like to dance to.  You know all the characters’ names, and like to list them off at random times through the day.  The episodes have some good messages, and it’s nice when you snuggle into my lap and we watch together.  You’re not a snuggler, so it’s nice that for a few minutes, you’ll cuddle in, even if it’s just to watch a show.
You talk a lot now, and most of the time you like to announce what you see, or are doing, or are playing with.  You love to make animal sounds, and we go through your list of animal sounds in the car when the ride starts getting boring.  I love being able to communicate with you, and you still like to sign, although now you sometimes do the sign and say the word at the same time.  Daddy and I counted around 160 words that you know, which astounded us a bit.  You’re an extremely clever little girl!
You’re still a bit of a picky eater, and you still eat like a bird, but you’re able to handle bigger pieces of things, and you love to pick up a half a slice of toast in both hands and take a big bite out of it.  We have to work hard at getting enough protein into you, but you love fruit and bread and sometimes you’ll even dig into your vegetables with gusto.  You have your favourite foods, but singing the “Try it, you’ll like it” song from your favourite show will sometimes get you to try something new.
There’s so much more, but this is getting quite long.  I love you bunches and bunches, my little bean.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Digging in the sand

Digging in the sand

Recipe review: Sesame and Panko-Crusted Chicken

Like a lot of families, it’s easy to fall into a rut with dinners.  Hubby gets home with A about a half-hour before she starts getting hungry, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking or being creative in the kitchen.

I hunted around online for some toddler-friendly recipes and came across this one on Red Tricycle, which ended up being a huge hit.  It was easy and quick to put together.  Since it’s baked, it’s way healthier than traditional breaded and fried chicken.  The chicken came out moist inside, and the breading was nice and crunchy.  I had to make two substitutions: I only had about a half cup of panko crumbs so I made up the difference with regular bread crumbs; and, I used skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips.  It was delicious, and I look forward to trying it again with just the panko crumbs.  It would also be tasty with some dipping sauce, perhaps some plum sauce.  Click the link in the recipe title to go to the original page.

“Crunchy-Crunchy” Sesame & Panko-Crusted Chicken


  • 1 kg (2 pounds) chicken wings or drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh or panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Thai sweet chilli sauce
Cajun seasoning


  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Wash chick and pat dry. Rub all over with a little salt.
  • Place the beaten egg in a shallow dish. On another plate, mix the breadcrumbs with the sesame seeds and some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Dip each piece of chicken into the egg, drain off excess, and coat it well with the breadcrumb mixture. Press the breadcrumbs firmly onto chicken so that they adhere properly. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • Arrange the chicken on the baking tray and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway while cooking, until chicken is golden brown and cooked. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy while hot and crunchy!

When the chicken is cooked, brush some sweet chilli sauce all over the chicken and bake again for 2-3 minutes until caramelized.

For a spicy twist, omit the salt in the breadcrumb mixture and substitute with 1 tbsp cajun seasoning instead, and a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra heat.